Gatty Park Test Test Green Apple Gold Award 2011
Gatty Park in Church Accrington was officially opened as a public park in 1920.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s compulsory tendering of maintenance resulted in the park having little in the way of investment and fell into disrepair.
In 2006/7, the authorities Parks Team in consultation and partnership with various friends and community groups (Hyndburn Green Spaces Forum, Church Prospects, Elmfield Residents, Gatty Bowling Club, and Probation Payback Team) set out to address some of the issues which had made the park into a No Go area. (The park suffered from poor infrastructure, vandalism, antisocial behaviour and large overgrown shrubbery areas with little/ no biodiversity value). The park was also home to a derelict growing compound previously used by the parks department for the production of annual bedding.
Our project set out to secure enough funding to regenerate Gatty Park into a public space which would re-ignite community ownership and pride by providing a welcoming, safe, community space, with sustainable maintenance and improved biodiversity.
It involved new drainage works, new paths to improve access, resurfacing of existing paths, installation of decorative security fencing around the bowling green, creation of a disabled car park, refurbishment of the benches and painting of the park gates. Refurbishment and expansion of the children’s play area. We removed several trees in poor health and all the overgrown shrubberies.
It created new herbaceous borders, wildflower meadow and rock garden.
Volunteers planted areas of the Parks grounds with naturalising bulbs, daffodils, bluebells and crocus. We planted new trees, introduced new signage. Further funding was secured to refurbish semi-derelict nursery glass house and reinstate a non-existent polytunnel as a community food growing area - Gatty Park Community Food Growing Project.
The park was a No go area, with high levels of antisocial behaviour, vandalism, poor paths and access, with no colour or biodiversity with few facilities and was a crime hot spot.
The authority in partnership with local community groups raised £250,000 from external funding from Aggregates levy fund, Green Partnership Awards, Lancashire Environment Fund, Single Regeneration Budget and Sita. A further £8,000 was raised for the refurbishment of a greenhouse and replacement of a polytunnel by the Church prospects panel.
The average cost per sqm for herbaceous is £20.00 (£ 4 each @ 5 plants per sqm), annual bedding (25p each @ 35 per sqm ) x 2 (spring & summer) approx cost £17.50 per year/sqm.
Within one year the herbaceous bed has almost recovered its initial outlay and therefore provides year on year purchase cost savings.
Labour savings are also made as you only have to plant once, and the use of a weed suppressant membrane reduces weeding maintenance to almost nil. After the 3 years, the plants are big enough to split providing a continuous supply of free new stock.
If maintenance is carried out in the spring the seed heads provide food during the winter. They also attract a greater variety and quantity of insects than annual bedding.
Spring bulbs for the authorities’ tubs are now chosen on their naturalising suitability as well as spring performance. After flowering in the tubs they are then given to community groups for replanting in public areas.
Who and what benefited;
- 5,264 people that live in Church Ward.
- Local wildlife has new food sources/ habitats
- Gatty Bowlers no longer have a bowling green which suffers from vandalism and miss use.
- Reduced maintenance costs and a tree stock which is more varied both in age and species, allowing greater adaptability to climate change.
- The residents now have little in the way of antisocial behaviour and vandalism affecting their lives.
- Crime statistics for the area have reduced, saving police resources.
Longer Term Benefits;
- Residents on low incomes benefit from the surplus food grown by the Church prospect panel.
- The Day Care centre clients have somewhere safe to train in a natural environment.
- The refurbishment of the parks metal benches by the probation payback team was a pilot project. This has now been formalised and expanded to cover the entire Borough so all 81K residents living in Hyndburn who now indirectly benefit.
- A continuous supply of herbaceous stock is available to improve other areas of the Borough at a reduced cost.
- Hyndburn Green Spaces Forum started in Nov 2005 with representatives from 6 “friends of Parks groups”. This was the forum’s first major project; they now have 24 member groups comprising of friends of parks, residents associations, and environmental volunteer groups. They now have Entrust environmental body status and have applied for charity status.
Prior to this project the authorities flower beds where all annual bedding or shrubs. It was also the first major park project in Hyndburn which involved community/user groups in its redevelopment and refurbishment. Where community groups helped to clear the site and replant it with new bulbs and trees etc.
Hyndburn has continued to benefit from this way of working. The forum and member groups have continued to work closely with the authority to secure external funding. Since 2005 they have helped to secure 1.2 million in external funding for community projects ( e.g. new playgrounds, park refurbishments, wildflower meadows, community bulb plants) The Forum volunteers have donated many volunteer hours on litter picks, tree planting, bulb planting etc. Using this model has also helped the authority to regenerate 5 of its parks to Green Flag Standard. The authority supports the forum by providing administrative support and a member of the authorities’ parks team always attends the forum’s meetings.
Working in partnership with the local community can completely transform an area. Were the residents take ownership, develop a sense of pride, reducing crime and antisocial behaviour. The Gatty park groups are working with the Hyndburn Green Spaces Forum on other projects the latest of which hopes to secure funding to plant 200,000 crocus bulbs across the Borough. If successful some of these will be planted by the groups in Gatty Park. Gatty Park is one of the proposed locations for the Bee Hive project, volunteers will be trained to take care of the hives and the Honey will be sold in the “One Plant Shop” a social enterprise run by one of the forum member groups.
The Park was submitted in 2008 for Green Flag the national standard of quality for Parks and Open Spaces. It was successful and has continued to secure this status ever since. Some of the judges comments include;
- Well organised network of partners
- Continued projects to improve upon the existing infrastructure and group’s use of the site seek to further the enjoyment and use of the park and its facilities and the inter-connectedness of the projects with other parks are to be commended.
- Excellent use of obsolete plant nursery.