Earlsfield public space proposal set for approval

A masterplan for the public open space at Ion Developments’ Earlsfield Park scheme in Huyton will go before Knowsley’s planning committee with a recommendation for approval.

Should approval be granted, the masterplan would replace Ion’s masterplan for the western part of the site, comprising Lord Derby Memorial Playing Fields and Oak Plantation, removing the 2.4 acres of employment space west of George Hale Avenue. This is a private road servicing the Knowsley Hall estate, meaning in effect that the revised masterplan will split the Earlsfield development neatly into two.

The Earlsfield Park site as a whole comprises 99 acres, and is one of ten sustainable urban extension areas allocated by Knowsley’s Local Plan, with at least 39 acres required to be used for employment space, with housing and open space the remainder.

Having secured outline approval in September 2017, Ion and partner Bellway Homes obtained consent in June 2018 for the eastern part of the site, this scheme including 164 homes, employment floorspace and ancillary uses including a hotel, filling station, pub, drive-thru coffee and some small-scale retail.

This application did not propose development on any land west of George Hale Avenue, but the planning permission did secure a financial contribution from the applicants of £750,000 for improvements to Lord Derby Memorial Playing Fields and Oak Plantation.

In addition, Knowsley has been encouraged by the Football Foundation to apply for a £600,000 grant to support work at the playing fields. Other sources of funding, such as the Landfill Communities Fund and the Lottery, could also be explored, the council said.

Knowsley will take forward this western part of the site itself, and has been advised by WSP and sports facilities specialist Steve Wells Associates in preparing the masterplan.

The plans for the playing fields include nine pitches, plus possibly one more on the existing meadow, a clubhouse, improved vehicle access, a new car park, new paths and landscaping. Currently, the site houses three full-size pitches, one junior pitch and one mini-pitch, all used mainly by Knowsley South FC, which uses the pitches on an informal basis. The masterplan document states that while the club maintains the pitches well, the rest of the site is in a poor state.

This will be phase one, with the second phase of work tackling Oak Plantation. This will include pedestrian paths through the woodland, some tree clearance, green gym stations and a woodland sculpture trail. A third phase would cover further enhancement of the sports facilities.

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Whilst conserving and enhancing open space for recreation and sport is a huge positive there isn’t much mention of long-term landscape management of the oak plantation and perhaps improved biodiversity and habitat ? Just a vague reference to some tree clearance. Are there activities planned that involve the community in the care and enhancement of the plantation and its wildlife? This would be great to hear!

By Adam Ash

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