Knowsley Council’s new leadership has reversed proposals to raise £40m through selling 17 of the borough’s parks, instead promising to set up a charitable trust to administer its parks and open space in the future.
The council originally unveiled plans to sell parkland deemed suitable for development in November 2017, which included 17 sites that would be made available over the next 15 years.
In January the council’s cabinet unanimously agreed to the plans, which would have seen a new charitable trust established by April 2019 to oversee the process and manage the parks. The proposals were brought forward as a result of a £1.3m funding shortfall in the parks budget, attracted substantial feedback from the local community.
However, Cllr Graham Morgan, who replaced former leader Andy Moorhead in May, said the council would now be looking to reinstate £1.3m of funding for parks and open spaces from April 2019, reversing the previous plans for the parkland.
“Upon taking over as leader of this council a couple of weeks ago, I made it clear that one of my first priorities would be to look at the future of our parks – which are undoubtedly one of Knowsley’s greatest assets,” he said.
“Alongside my Labour Group colleagues, I have since looked in detail all of the background documentation behind the independent review and taken note of the feedback and views of the local community.
“There is no doubt that we still face an unprecedented financial challenge. But, for Knowsley to thrive in the future, I strongly believe that we have to work together with our local communities, listen to their views, and then shape our decisions on the basis of that complete and full picture.
“The message from local communities has been loud and clear on this issue – they value our parks too much to lose them. We will still have to make savings to balance our budget, and that is not going to be easy, but we know that our residents want us to look elsewhere.”
The parks formerly earmarked for sale were:
- Part of Alt Park, Huyton
- Broad Lane Playing Fields, Kirkby
- Copthorne, adjacent community centre not included, Kirkby
- Part of Court Hey Park – pending separate tender exercise relating to the future of former National Wildflower Centre
- Cowper Way, Huyton
- Field Lane, Fazakerley
- Finch Wood
- Frederick Lunt Playing Fields
- Grace Park
- Part of Halewood Doorstep Green
- King George V Playing Fields, Prescot
- Pool Hey Playing Fields
- Roby Playing Fields, adjacent community centre not included
- St John’s Millennium Green, Knowsley
- Spring Wood, Huyton
- Part of Syders Grove, Prescot
The council had decided last year that with Government cuts continuing to bite, it could no longer afford the annual £1.3m it costs to maintain its parks, leading to a review of its options. Knowsley has lost £86m due to budget cuts since 2010 and faces a further £14.8m in cuts up to 2020.