My Place on Lowfield Green Space application number 09/03136/RG3
The three Central ward councillors strongly support the application for a new building and all-weather sports surface on the existing park north of Lowfield Primary school. We also support any improvements to the green space itself. We recognise the need for improved youth facilities on this site, which was identified years ago as part of the “Sharrow Project” (which will involve selling the current facilities at The Hub on Sharrow Lane) and applaud the good work which has taken place with young people to help shape the project. We are however disappointed that the main elements of the scheme were decided upon before detailed consultation with the surrounding community and the school and that the planning application has not taken into account some important problems and possible solutions.
1. The building
1.1 The siting, single storey and green roof provide an imaginative solution to the need not to impinge more than absolutely necessary on the green space.
1.2 The floor plan shows a small kitchen. In our experience, community buildings are often used or hired out for functions including food and it would increase the potential of the building if there was a larger kitchen. This could provide training facilities for young people and should be designed to cater for people from ethnic minorities and disabled people. This will require detailed consultation with the relevant groups.
2. The green space
2.1 The new all-weather pitch is a key part of the project. Because it will be high quality and susceptible to damage, it will have to be fenced in. This means it will NOT be accessible for informal use. This puts the remaining grassed area at a premium. We accept that the pitch has been “recessed” as far into the northern part of the site to save as much as possible of the remaining open space. The grassed area must be upgraded, in particular it needs to be levelled out.
2.2 Not withstanding the excellent work of FURD (Football Unites Racism Divides), most of the surrounding population are more interested in cricket than football. St Wilfred’s day centre also use the space for cricket matches. Advice should be sought on whether and how the remaining green space will serve for informal games of cricket as well as football and school sports days.
2.3 The consultation has thrown up a tension between the wish for trees and shrubbery and the need for open views which contribute to safety and deter antisocial behaviour. Officers in Parks are very familiar with this dilemma and their advice should be sought as to how to find solutions.
2.4 We are very concerned that some of the green space is to be sacrificed for a car park and access road to it. We think that losing any green space when it is at such a premium in this part of the city is unacceptable and suggest alternative solutions (below).
2.5 There has been a longstanding and consistent request from several sections of the community (local residents in the Batt St/Witney St area, Bangladeshi women, Grow Sheffield, the Allotments Federation) for a community garden i.e. growing space. This would not be allotments (i.e. for individual use) but a shared space where people could learn gardening techniques. This could be an important shared resource with the school and the youth centre.
2.6 There is a concern about dogs, the problems being lack of control of aggressive dogs and dog poo. There should be good signage and dog poos bins. The children’s play equipment should be fenced off to protect them from the danger of attack and dog poo. There should be a website to promote responsible dog ownership and monitor problems.
3. Car parking
3.1. The youth and sports facilities will serve a wide area, not just local people, and there will clearly be a call for car parking. Local residents are worried that on-street parking will impinge on them and they will not be protected by the Highfield Permit Parking Zone. So a substantial number of parking spaces will need to be found.
3.2 We have identified over a hundred spaces associated with businesses in the immediate area and we welcome the efforts of the project group to firm up their use. The centre is likely to be most heavily used by children driven there by their parents in the evenings, which is precisely when the business use is least. So there is a good synergy, which could be exploited.
3.3 There is an overlap with the work currently being done to improve parking for people travelling to the Madina Mosque (just the other side of London Road) by car. A small project group have identified local parking spaces and ways of informing visitors about them. The good practice being developed at the mosque should be shared.
3.4 An additional, radical, option would be to move the existing cycle track inside the park (perhaps along the top of the green roof) and to use the east side of Asline Road for parking.
3.5 There will need to be some disabled parking very close to the new building but every effort should be made to ensure that this doesn’t encroach on green space.
3.6 There will need to be parking for coaches and mini-buses, which emphatically cannot be inside the existing park.
3.7 We strongly oppose the creation of a new car park and access road on existing green space. As stated above, green space is at a premium and it is short sighted in the extreme to sacrifice it for car parking.
3.8 In particular, the proposal that this would replace the existing school staff car park on the southern tip of the site (at the junction of London Road and Queens Road) and that that space should be used as a playground is wholly unacceptable. The noise and pollution at that end of the site precludes its use as a playground. This proposal was made without consulting the school and the head teacher has rejected it out of hand. The school would be happy for their car park to be used by the new centre in the evenings. It is fenced off from the school so there are no security issues.
- Integration with Lowfield Primary School
4.1 It is disappointing that there was very little liason with the school in the early stages of the project. This plan, which includes altering the existing boundary of the school, was drawn up without even taking it to a governors’ meeting. The school is currently looking to increase its intake from one to one-and-a-half, or even two form entry and will be embarking on refurbishment, altering the use of various buildings and spaces and new build. This gives an opportunity to review the existing boundaries and interplay between the school and the open space which has not so far been discussed.
4.2 One option is to have a shared space for young children’s play and/or community garden, which could be maintained by the school.
4.3 There are important issues around shared parking which still need to be firmed up.
4.4 There is a potential for the school to be involved in the use and maintenance of parts of the new facilities which has not so far been explored.
In conclusion, we reiterate our support for the project but we want any approval to recognise the need for further work on all the above areas.
Cllr Jillian Creasy, Cllr Rob Murphy, Cllr Bernard Little