The Department for Communities and Local Government is providing a £1.5 million fund to support the development of up to 100 pocket parks by communities in urban areas. This funding will help put communities and their partners in a position to take on the management of green spaces of value to them; and contribute resource towards turning around spaces so that they are in good condition and communities can focus on managing them for the future.
What is a pocket park?
Pocket parks are small areas of inviting public space where people can enjoy relief from the hustle and bustle of city streets. Pocket parks – locally identified, smaller areas of green space ultra-local to where people live and work – can provide well-being opportunities, as well as helping to improve community integration, community pride and social action, especially where communities are involved in the upkeep and development decisions of such a park.
There is no prescription on what a pocket park should look like and we welcome both innovative and traditional proposals. We are also keen to see applications from projects aiming to improve their local town centre or high street with a community green space. The aim is to increase access to good quality green space in a sustainable and community-led manner. Communities may be looking at projects where there is a desire, with support, to take full or partial control of green spaces of value and importance to them. Partial control reflects that a pocket park may be a part of a larger site developed with the landowner’s permission.
This can include social housing areas and towns and city centres where communities can demonstrate a pocket park is needed and that they are willing to manage it. Ownership of the site of a pocket park may rest with the community, the local authority or other public sector body, or a private sector body or trust including a housing association.
“The site must be no bigger than 0.4 hectares (and can be much smaller) which is unused, undeveloped or derelict, not used to its full potential by the community.”
(Ski Village sections can be done, then)
“Grants will be paid to the appropriate principal local authority that is supporting the application (under section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003) so that it can be released to the community as they need it to deliver. Pocket parks are defined for this programme as a piece of land of up to 0.4 hectares (although many are around 0.02 hectares, the size of a tennis court) which may already be under grass but which is unused, undeveloped or derelict.”
“Partial control reflects that a pocket park may be a part of a larger site developed with the landowner’s permission. This can include social housing areas and towns and city centres where communities can demonstrate a pocket park is needed and that they are willing to manage it.”
So the Ski Village site would be ideal for such an area, according to the above guidelines. These began as notes I was taking for myself about the Pocket Parks initiative for Sheffield. Although the application deadline for funding to back community inspired proposals for the Pocket Parks scheme passed me previously unnoticed on 10th December 2015, I can see no good reason for me to blog about it now.
I have e-mailed and made some inquiries, obviously, because things are always better late than never. ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get.’ While generally this moral approach to life grinds my soul down significantly by principle and implication, I can’t ignore the lessons my own life path has been particularly fond of delivering; this is the disturbing reality behind the words in that statement. It seems to go against my entire natural temperament to address the journey of how to go about one’s life based on the presupposition that ‘if one does not ask, one does not get’, because in all honesty I am stuck on some deep rooted moral high ground about how things ought to be in an ideal world.
So anyway, that’s why I am asking. Still. But while I await response (subject to optimism), I will write about it and hope that someone at least has the kind heart to just humor me and respond with their own opinion.
Sheffield once had an amazing Ski Village
An outdoor sports and activity hub with dry slopes down which the community who so fancied it, could ski without having to pay an absolute fortune to try the sport out abroad. Visitor numbers reached 180,000 visitors per year at its peak. The site, which also became a national training centre for the British Ski Federation, offered several slopes and a freestyle zone that included half pipes, ramps and rails. Here is what it used to look like:
Then in 2012, fire broke out at the Ski Village, and caused in it’s wake a considerable amount of destruction. Four more fires, essentially averaging one per year (enough to justify Tweets like: “The flowers are blooming, the birds are nesting and Sheffield Ski Village is on fire again. It must be springtime.“)
The Ski Village has, quite staggeringly, managed to remain derelict and ‘brushed under the rug’ in terms of any real redevelopment or refurbishment plans ever since, although a formidable level of effort has been poured in by groups and members of the community seeking to revive it.
Snowsport for Sheffield
For example, is a group of individuals who have done a lot of campaigning for the resurgence of Sheffield as the innovating and leading centre for snowsport in the UK.
I personally did my own research and poured a degree of persistence into contacting Sheffield City Council, starting a Crowdfunder page, communicated with interests such as Parkwood Springs who have a Motorcross bike track next to the Ski Village. They had hopes to expand this into the former Ski Village, so for me, contacting them to offer potential mutually beneficial collaboration to try and gather momentum for a regeneration project which could run side by side to turn sections of the disused site into a community gardening project or ‘edible park’.
It was a frustrating process which I eventually had to put on the back burner for a while, after meeting a formidable number of closed doors and pessimistic rejections by members of the council, who didn’t really seems to share a consistent idea of what on Earth was supposed to be happening for the site which was becoming an increasingly concerning fly-tipping hot sport, much to it’s undeserved sorry fate. I contacted the leaseholder of the Ski Village site who owned the land when it first burned down and presently, to try and establish what his business ambitions and ideas for the future of the site were, but received no correspondence despite my level of persistence. The council didn’t really seem to know where he even was, either, or at least they certainly did not care to give the out such an impression.
This is what the Ski Village site looked like when I most recently visited and took photos:
This was as saddening then as it continues to be now.
Project ‘eat my park’, Sheffield, for a community garden/growing space using some of the land on Sheffield’s closed Ski Village.
The plan was to clear waste by upcycling as much as possible, for example; abundant piles of tyres for plantpot beds, abandoned materials from the ski slopes such as the mesh, to turn into vines for growing creepers etc, scattered rocks, bricks and general debris can be used to help shape the growing beds, turn into benches and sculptures, and to provide plenty of blank canvas space too for local street artists.
So, you can imagine that when I came across this new Pocket Parks scheme to inject funds into the provision of more locally inspired and designed green spaces, I was obviously interested. I still want the same outcome for at least some of the potential space which comprises the former Ski Village. It could work so well as an interweaving project to run alongside other redevelopment projects, such as Parkwood Springs’ expansion, Snowsport Sheffield’s ambitions to bring the slopes back to life for Sheffield, as a non-invasive companion to any incentive designed to re-capture the land for the leisure hub it can offer.
The introduction of new Pocket Parks for Sheffield (and other UK cities) for investment and creative efforts for the community by the community, therefore, seems to be a perfect fit to the task of filling some of the void.
How to make it happen
(Things to know)
The Pocket Parks funding will exclude:
“Work that would happen anyway. This money cannot simply top up an existing project UNLESS communities can provide clear evidence that the proposal would not have happened without our funding.”
Evidence in the form of signed letter of support from local community/ council, evidence of engagement with community and local authority-
“Communities will need to show that they have engaged their local authority to secure their support.”
The area has to be shown to be a deprived area where it is possible to demonstrate an arguable case for why provision of more publicly accessible green space is desirable and needed.
“We will give added weight to those from deprived local authority wards according to the Indices of Multiple Deprivation rankings (2015).”
“We are open to considering any and all ideas that meet the criteria and see a pocket park delivered in whatever shape or form. Particular features that we will look for in applications include:
The site must be called a pocket park and be branded as such
It must be in an urban area of deprivation in England
It can be a new site or an existing site and all or part of a site.
It needs to be accessible and available for the community who wish to use it and ideally openly accessible to all”
“Any grant awarded will be provided to the local authority partner under section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003”
The group that could be:
“By community we mean a group of people who have come together such as a friends group, a tenants group, community gardener’s association etc. The group will need to have a constitution.”
Pocket Parks Prospectus in the link below is where I found the information about the Pocket Parks, and is worth your attention either way:
 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/474368/151103_Pocket_Parks_Prospectus.pdf, accessed 19/04/2016
Just think of what we could do!