Keeping Parkwood open access

Parkwood Springs map

Story by Neill Schofield, Joint Chair, the Friends of Parkwood Springs

Progress towards the re-opening of the Ski Village on Parkwood Springs passed another milestone a few weeks ago, when the council signed an Agreement to Lease with the developer, Extreme Destination. The council has told us that this sets a number of conditions that Extreme have to meet before the lease is signed – probably most important that they get planning permission for the development.

We’ve discussed this development at a number of open meetings of the Friends of Parkwood Springs, including our November one, and have also had a number of meetings with both the council and Extreme Destination.

Our overall approach is to support the redevelopment. The old Ski Village was well-loved by thousands of Sheffielders, and an important part of the growing up of lots of young people. But the development has to be done in the right way, and as so often, the devil will be in the detail.

We agreed the following principles:

  • The development needs to be consistent in all regards with the concept of Parkwood Springs as a country park in the city. This includes recognising the importance of the site for wildlife, and as a wildlife corridor.
  •  It must add to the opportunities Parkwood Springs offers, and not reduce in any significant way how existing users enjoy the site
  •  We want the site developed and managed to allow and encourage access by as many people as possible. That means the site must not be fenced off from the rest of Parkwood Springs, and pricing for paid-for activities should allow the local community to use it, not just wealthy people travelling from afar. Facilities such as cafés and toilets (which will be an important gain from the development) must be planned and operated to serve the wider community.
  •  Footpaths and bridle-ways need to be at least as good in the future as they are now. The interests of the vast number of people who already use Parkwood Springs for gentle or not-so-gentle walks, runs and cycling must be protected.
  •  Enormous care will need to be taken during the construction phase, to minimise the disruption to existing users and wildlife.

Parkwood Springs map from issue 146

A. The boundary plan has been amended to extend north to incorporate council freehold land which had previously been leased to Viridor within their landfill site boundary. This provides additional space for the sport and leisure facilities that will be located on the site. It should ensure that public rights of way and other pathways required can be designed to allow permeable access from the leisure attraction to the wider country park, and vice versa.

B. It also extends to the east beyond the original ski village area to incorporate additional council-owned land to enable more sustainable redevelopment of the site and create opportunities to deliver new and enhanced facilities at the top of the park where the views into the city and out to the Peak District are most prominent.

From our meetings with the council and Extreme Destination, we have an outline of the thinking. That includes the phased development of ski-runs, mountain-bike trails and so-called ‘luges’ (like bob-sleigh runs on wheels).

We know that the area covered by the council’s agreement is bigger than the area of the old Ski Village site – though that still leaves a massive area of Parkwood Springs outside it. We have argued that the leased area must not be fenced off – there must still be open access for the public as of right.

Beyond that, we are still waiting to see detailed and firm plans that we can comment on. As the council has told us, Extreme Destination have to apply for and get planning permission. Without that they cannot move forward, and the lease will not be signed. To get planning permission they will need to submit proper and detailed plans. We will all need to scrutinise these very carefully, and make our views known. The Friends of Parkwood Springs will certainly do that. However, Extreme must also consult seriously with the local community as a whole – we will keep people aware of what is going on and help them to engage with the consultation as it unfolds.

We hope to have a senior council officer at our January open meeting, to set out and discuss the council’s approach and process. This will take place 7pm Thursday 16th January, at St Catherine’s School, Firshill Crescent, S4 7BX. Tea and coffee from 6.30pm. Everyone is welcome.

This development has great potential, but we need to watch like hawks to make sure that it turns out in the way we want.