Update on the campaign to save Calderstones Park

The current plans for the Harthill and Calderstones Park which will take 13 acres of much loved green space, buildings and woodlands and privatise them with Redrow

The future of 13 acres of the Harthill & Calderstones Park will come to a conclusion later this year with two judicial reviews and a public hearing of the community led Village Green application.

It is quite clear that:

  • The Council will make a minimal profit or even a loss from the deal
  • Beechley Riding Stables are confident that they can find the money for the necessary renovations to their current site but will go along with a move to Clarke Gardens if that is the only way to save their work with the disabled.
  • The move of the much loved miniature railway is likely to destroy it although again they will move if the alternative is closure.

This guest blog below by respected journalist Larry Nield should be read by all. It exposes the bogus position of the Council and should be a rallying point for all 33,000 people who have signed the petition calling for the Harthill part of the Park to be saved.

Guest Blog from from former Liverpool Echo reporter and Columnist, Larry Nield

CITY COUNCIL TOLD US WE’D HAVE TO MOVE…IT WAS NOT SOMETHING WE WENT LOOKING FOR, SAYS STABLES CHAIRWOMAN… an exclusive report by Larry Neild……

Liverpool City Council and the mayor insist Redrow’s plan to build houses at Calderstones was prompted by a plea for help from Beechley Riding Stables.

The manager of the stables even wrote to the council welcoming a move from Calderstones to Clarke Gardens in Allerton.

But an official report to the Charities Commission paints a different story. The 2015 report by the then chair of the stables, Suzanne Gower, said it was the city council who initiated a move out of the Harthill stables to pave the way for a proposed development.

On Granada Reports recently the council said of the Redrow scheme: “This proposed development was a response to a plea for help from community groups on the Harthill site – Calder Kids and Beechley Riding Stables – whose venues were in urgent need of investment.

“This scheme, which evolved as a result of that approach and now has full planning approval, would allow the council to generate monies to fund brand new facilities and enhanced public space for future generations to enjoy.

“The council recognises the strong public feelings surrounding this issue and, with Redrow, will respond to them after the decision of the Judicial Review. However, it is felt the purpose of the proposal, its impact and its wider benefits have been misunderstood and misrepresented.

“It is important to note the scheme uses venues and a run-down former council depot which are not accessible to the public. The intention is not and has never been to build on Calderstones Park.”

The mayor said in recent correspondence: “What I believe is lost in this discussion is the fact that we were approached by two organisations on the site that provide services to disabled children who are desperate to move to better and more secure facilities, a move that this project was to help make a reality.”

A letter to the council from  centre manager Victoria Evans  said: “Beechley Stables RDA Group wholeheartedly supports the move to Clarke Gardens and the continuing relationship between our organisation and Liverpool City Council.”

Yet in October, 2015 Suzanne Gower told the Charities Commission: “The trustees were informed by Liverpool City Council in December 2014 that they are planning to sell the existing site for development; however they were willing to work with Beechley Stables RDA to find an alternative site for the stables.”

Suzanne Gower wrote: “The charity faces significant challenges in the future, both in the short and long term.  The most pressing is the need to significantly increase the income received from fundraising and grants to replace the initial start-up funding we received from Liverpool City Council.”

She added: “We have also been informed that we will have to move from our existing site and in September it was announced that Liverpool City Council are instigating a feasibility study at Clarke’s Gardens with a view to building us a new purpose-built venue on the site.  This is not something which we went looking for and the new venture will undoubtedly impose a significant fundraising burden on the organisation.”

The 2015 report said Beechley received a three-year funding package of £40,000 from the Morgan Foundation, the charity set up by Steve Morgan, head of Redrow, the company planning to build at Calderstones.

       In September, 2015, some 9 months AFTER Beechley was informed of the council’s intention to sell the Harthill stable site for development,  a story appeared in the Liverpool Echo.

     It said: “A popular Liverpool riding school for the disabled which was faced with the prospect of closure is set to be given a new lease of life. Supporters feared Beechley Stables, based on the edge of Calderstones Park, could have been shut down as a result of swingeing council spending cuts.”

    Mayor Anderson commented: “Despite the financial challenges we face, we have been determined to find a way of giving them a sustainable future at a new site which also offers them the opportunity to expand their services.”

At the planning committee in February, 2017, when Redrow’s plan was approved, the planning manager’s report said there were no public footpaths or public rights of way across the development site

Yet a long established footpath crosses the access road which links Harthill Road to the so-called disused depot site.   It is impossible to build on the depot site without creating a new estate road into the park with a speed limit of at least 20 mph.The footpath forms part of the council’s own 3 km health circuit in Calderstones Park.

More than 33,000 people have signed a petition opposing building houses at Calderstones, making it one of the most hotly contested developments in Liverpool in living memory. What Beechley Stables’ Suzanne Gower told the Charities Commission conflicts with what council has said. Add to that the fact a two-lane highway would have to be driven into the park to reach the Redrow houses, and it raises questions about the whole scheme. Has the time has come for the much hated Redrow development to be abandoned?
UPDATE FOLLOWING A VISIT TO THE AFFECTED AREA THIS MORNING WHEN I WAS ACCOMPANIED BY THE MAYOR AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE

“Calderstones Park – A solution can be found”

Statement from Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

 

“This morning I visited the Harthill section of Harthill & Calderstones Park with the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson and the Council’s new Chief Executive, Tony Reeves.

I am please to say that although there were clear differences between Mayor Anderson and I there was much more agreement than I thought would be possible.

Fortunately, we met on site the Chair of the Beechley RDA who confirmed that they did not want to move and that they could find all the money that they needed for upgrading at the fraction of the price of a proposed move by way of grant applications to Trusts, Charities and local companies.

We agreed further that:

The woodland facility was a great but underused feature which could be used much more by the local public. I suggested that the local community should run this.

The model railway was another feature which could benefit from investment and a better set of facilities. We have people available to look at a business plan for such an improvement programme on their current site.

Beechley House should be converted urgently to 2 bedroomed apartments as it was already in housing use.

The Park itself could be used much more than it is (although it is already a well-used Park). I reiterated that for the past 2.5 years we have said that we ought to look at the possibility of a Trust led by local people taking over the management of the Park and the depot site.

The depot site probably remains open to dispute. It may be that the Council will seek to continue with a housing plan for the site. I have suggested that it needs to be developed for Park related uses with a competition asking people to put forward plans and ideas for such use.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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