Park joins the list of local assets

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A Sheffield park has joined the city’s roll call of ‘assets of community value’ – giving it protection from being sold off or built on.

Heeley People’s Park has been granted the status by Sheffield Council which, explaining its decision, said the site was ‘well-used and well-regarded’.

The park – formerly Heeley Millennium Park – was renamed last year when its custodians, the Heeley Development Trust, launched a subscription society as part of a pilot scheme looking at new ways of funding green spaces.

Andy Jackson, the trust’s manager, said the park – former housing land cleared in the 1970s and 80s – was ‘quite unusual’.

“It’s held on a long lease. We’ve used those lease terms to protect the site when road-widening plans were announced and so on. As an asset it’s brought life back to two local pubs, it supports local festivals and businesses and helped us to market Sum Studios and fill it with tenants.”

Assets, which can include land and buildings, stay on the council’s list for five years. They cannot be converted or built on without planning permission and, if put on the market, the community is given six months to put together a bid to make a purchase.

“The park is our biggest and first project,” said Andy.

“Local people came together to save what was effectively a piece of derelict land with lots of flytipping and various other less pleasant uses.”

But he added: “It’s extremely difficult to raise ongoing maintenance money.”

Subscriptions raised 17 per cent of the park’s annual running costs in six months.

“It was a great start but we’ve got a long way to go,” Andy said. “Without local people’s support the park will fold, there’s no question. It’s not a local thing. Nationally, parks and green spaces contribute massively to the value of where we live but are not valued when it comes to budget cuts. We receive no grants. We start from scratch every year.”

The £1 million pilot scheme, called Rethinking Parks, was run by the Big Lottery Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and charity Nesta. A study launched alongside the National Trust, looking at how Sheffield’s parks can be looked after through an independent charitable trust, paid for by an endowment fund and social enterprise, is ongoing.

Other community assets in Sheffield include pubs, such as The Three Tuns in the city centre, and allotments at Infield Road, Darnall.