Friends of Graves Park take Sheffield council to High Court after decades of battling to save it

Barbara Greatorex, Ernest Brewin and Caroline Dewar of the Friends of Graves Park
Barbara Greatorex, Ernest Brewin and Caroline Dewar of the Friends of Graves Park
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A friends group is planning to take its fight to protect Sheffield's biggest park to the High Court in a bid to stop the council selling off the park's assets.

Graves Park covers around 250 acres of thousands-of-years-old woodland, open green space, playgrounds, ponds and even a small animal farm.

Graves Park

Graves Park

As the group approaches its 20th anniversary they are preparing to head to the High Court in a battle to preserve it for future generations.

Graves Park is neighboured by Norton, Woodseats and Meadowhead and enjoyed by residents across the city.

It is also the venue for the annual Highland Fling, which draws in visitors from across the country and, even, across the globe some years.

But behind the scenes the Friends of Graves Park have been working hard to keep it in public hands.

Highland Fling in Graves Park

Highland Fling in Graves Park

Caroline Dewar, chair of the Friends of Graves Park, said without the volunteer group the park would look very different today.

She added: “Without our campaigning, there would be a housing estate stretching from the Norton Nurseries site at Norton Lane to Charles Ashmore Road by Meadowhead, proposed in 1997, and property development on the Woodseats Playground site at the bottom of Cobnar Road, proposed in 2004.”

Despite their best efforts a few years ago the council announced they were selling off the park's stone-built 17th century Cobnar Road Cottage.

In a response the Friends launched a petition which gathered more than 13,600 signatures and was supported by more than 60 letters of objection to the sale. But the council sold it at auction for £150,000 which went towards improving the park's facilities.

Cobnar Cottage

Cobnar Cottage

Ms Dewar said: “Despite this level of support, the council insisted on pushing through the sale. Although the cottage and the designated parkland on which it stands have been sold, the Friends are continuing with our campaign, now in its third year, to protect Graves Park from any further sale or disposal of its assets.”

She claimed the council even broke the law when they sold the cottage as it was not theirs to sell. She said it was bought by JG Graves, entrepreneur and former Sheffield Lord Mayor, in 1925 and falls under a covenant which protects assets of the park from being sold off.

The council said it had written acknowledgement from the Charity Commission of its power to sell the cottage and said: "The cottage has never formed part of the public amenity of the park, it sits outside the boundary wall and has stood empty for many years."

Ms Dewar said: "Every few years the possibility of selling off and disposing of parts of Graves Park is revisited by the council.

“Without a legal declaration, the Friends believe that, based on our 20 years of experience, the council will continue to dispose of designated land within Graves Park.”

She added: “We are in the final stages of legal action, seeking a declaration from the council in its role as trustee that no further charitable parkland will be sold. As the council has refused to agree to this declaration, we are having to go to the high court in London.”

So far they have raised £4,300 to fund the High Court battle in London, and are hoping to gather another £10,000 before they head to court on February.

Ms Dewar said: “We are hopeful that these original legal documents will be further strengthened if we are successful in court.”

Paul Billington, director of culture and environment at the council, said: "The council acts as a charitable trustee of Graves Park to protect the park for public use.

"While we believe the action the friends group is taking is unnecessary, we are open to constructive discussions with them at any time."

Anyone wishing to donate to the campaign can do so on the Friends Group Just Giving page at

https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/fo-gravespark/protectgravespark

Or send a donation via text: Text FOGP42 £2 to 70070