A public park to be dug up for a new gyratory road system between the M1 and Barnsley has been allocated more public money in the last five years than any other in the town, it has emerged, sparking criticism from protestors trying to save it.
Most of the £174,000 allocated to Penny Pie Park was from two major awards and one of them had not even been finished when decision was taken to stop work earlier this year, shortly before a ‘masterplan’ for the future of the site was released.
Spending on the park had continued in the park after consultants had been called in to find a solution to a traffic bottleneck in the area.
Since 2012/13, the park has been the subject of almost £174,000 investment through Barnsley Council, with almost all of it coming from Section 106 payments, the cash provided by developers to compensate for the negative impact large housing developments have on communities.
Research conducted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service reveals that is the highest figure for any of the 48 parks and play areas to get Section 106 money in Barnsley during the last five years.
Next on the list was Elsecar Park – recently voted among the nation’s top ten favourites – at £167,000 but most of that came from an external funding source.
Barnsley’s flagship Locke Park received council sourced investment of less than £121,000 in the same period, though that figure does not include the cost of a multi games area installed as part of a package with football facilities on a site nearby.
Some of the money allocated to Penny Pie Park was for maintenance costs following improvement work and cash from the project which was halted has been returned to council funds.
Although Barnsley Council still needs planning permission for the development, it has been adopted as the authority’s preferred scheme to cure traffic problems around the Dodworth Road crossroads, a solution needed because traffic forecasts suggest vehicles will end up backing onto the M1 if no improvements are made.
Taking up part of the park for the ringroad was regarded as a better option than alternatives which would have involved the loss of homes and gardens, though the decision sparked intense opposition in the area, resulting in a petition and a series of meetings with senior councillors.
Lib Dem Coun Hannah Kitching described the situation as “absolute lunacy”.
“They are wasting money due to poor planning and a lack of communication between departments,”she said.
“I understand that the council created a red line, not to destroy people’s homes. I think this should be a red line too, not building roundabouts on children’s play areas.
“One suggestion for the children’s play equipment is to put it in the central reservation of the gyratory. With the issues of road safety and air pollution, you cannot have a kids play park in the middle of a gyratory,” she said.
Lyndsey Darren, of the Save Penny Pie Park group, said the situation was “bonkers”, adding: “Why plough money into making improvements? It is really odd, putting all that money in and then ripping it up.
“It makes you wonder what on earth they were thinking about. These people obviously don’t live where we do, because they don’t see it like we do.”
Although external specialists were commissioned to look at options for traffic in the area in 2016, work on the park did not stop until earlier this year, Barnsley Council has confirmed.
The authority told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The council has already highlighted Penny Pie Park’s assets which it will look to retain as part of the planning proposal, including the MUGA.”