COMMUNITY FEATURE: Sheffield community issues plea for investment to ensure park has a future 

Longley Park.
Longley Park.

Green spaces have always been important to people living in Longley ever since the estate was built almost a century ago. 

The suburb was built as part of the national ‘garden city movement’ in the 1920s, which aimed to get away from the ordered rows of terraced housing of the Victorian era and move into a new phase of more aesthetically pleasing communities based around parks and open spaces. 

Gill Furniss MP.

Gill Furniss MP.

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Anyone who visits Longley will be familiar with its bendy roads that curve around its many green spaces. The largest of which is Longley Park that was built alongside the housing estate and has for decades served as a haven for the 6000 or so residents who live in this northern suburb of Sheffield.

But there are fears for the future of the park and many residents have expressed concern that in recent years it has become blighted by vandalism, graffiti and nuisance off-road motorcyclists. 

Some also expressed concern that Sheffield Council has failed to pump adequate funding into the upkeep of the park, despite it being opened nearly a century ago to serve largely council tenants. 

The basketball courts.

The basketball courts.

In addition, Gill Furniss, MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, said she has been contacted by numerous constituents complaining about the state of the park and raised a debate in Parliament calling for more funding from the Government. 

One family told how they feel forced to bypass Longley Park despite it being right on their doorstep to travel several miles across the city to use 'better maintained' green spaces.    

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Father-of-two Dean Bethell, a Longley resident for 12 years, said: "The children’s play area looks derelict. The last I checked the swings were broken and other equipment has been taken out.

A unit at the park.

A unit at the park.

"In addition, the main gates have been vandalised which now means people are getting in on off-road bikes and cars. 

"There aren't enough paths and in heavy rainfall the drains overflow, spilling what I can only assume is sewage onto the paths.” 

The 44-year-old tenancy support worker added: "I have to take my daughter across the city to other parks such as Millhouses and Endcliffe. 

"There seems to be a lot of investment in one side of the city but not the other, why should we have have a bad park when other areas have nice ones?

Dean Bethell is angry because of the lack of investment in Longley Park.

Dean Bethell is angry because of the lack of investment in Longley Park.

“Everyone talks about the state of the park."   

Mr Bethell called for the authority to fix the drains, add in more paths, improve the play area and to consider the untapped potential of the park.

He added: "There is also a derelict building - which I think was a pavilion for the old golf course - which is sitting empty. Why don't they turn this into a cafe or a youth club?" 

Ian Drayton, aged 63, a trustee of the Longley 4G Community Centre, said: “The way the estate was built was to give good, hard-working people somewhere nice to live with more green areas, so the park is very important.  

“I think children's play area is a little hidden away and so people might not be aware that it is there. Re-siting the park so more families know where it is would be a good idea.”

He highlighted the community centre as an example of how investment and hard-work can pay off. 

Ian Drayton.

Ian Drayton.

Said Ian: “There are lots of activities that take place at the centre including parents and toddler groups, language courses and groups using it for meetings. It is a great place.

“We have a number of office units that are rented out and the idea was always that the place would make money from that and be able to ‘wash its own face’.

“It does make me proud that it is doing well, and the people who work there day in and day out do a fantastic job.”

He added some of the centre’s office units are currently vacant and urged any organisations interested to get in touch. 

Sheffield Council bosses are aware of the issues at Longley Park and have taken action. 

Lisa Firth, head of parks and countryside at the authority, said: “Unfortunately, Longley Park suffers from occasional problems of antisocial behaviour. 

“In response, over the past five years we have invested in barriers and other controls to reduce and prevent illegal vehicles using the park. 

“This is ongoing work and, despite being robustly designed some have been removed or damaged.

“Whilst the park remains safe for users, incidents of vandalism are dealt with and damaged facilities are replaced wherever possible.

“As with all our parks we carry out regular checks at Longley Park, to make sure they are welcoming, safe and well maintained.”

In addition to security measures, plans have been revealed to create a ‘disk golf park’ at Longley – believed to be the first in Sheffield.

The growing sport involves throwing a disk – similar to a frisbee – at a target and is usually played on a course of nine or 18 stations.

Residents are invited to try out the activity for themselves at a open day in the park on Saturday, September 29. 

Furthermore, the council announced in March last year that £1.5 million will be spent over the next three years to improve the city's parks.

Ms Firth added: “Parks are at the very heart of what we do in Sheffield and provide so many benefits to people across the city. 

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“Whilst it may seem that the north of the city receives less investment in playgrounds, this is not the case.

“We are investing £1.5m in our parks over three years in all parts of the city but particularly in areas where there is the greatest need to do so.”  
 

The children's play area.

The children's play area.

The basketball courts.

The basketball courts.