Community clash over ongoing park saga

Hospital bosses have clashed with community members over proposed drainage at a popular park which has been hit with years of delay.

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital is obligated to return Springfield Park in West Derby in full to the city following the completion of their state-of-the-art new facility back in 2015, as part of a land exchange agreement with Liverpool Council made more than a decade ago. Campaigners have been fighting to get the entirety of the park back ever since.

With next year marking nine since the new hospital was built, residents are expecting to finally get access to their park in January. However, further issues have been raised about the installation of a drainage system on parkland that will ultimately serve both the community space and a nearby planned housing development.

In the latest of several public meetings held at the hospital’s Institute in the Park Lecture Theatre, John Grinnell, Alder Hey managing director, repeated how he and the organisation were sorry for the ongoing delay. He said there was a “real understanding” of how patient the community has been in returning the park., adding, “It has been much later and we are sorry for that.”

Mr Grinnell said the hospital was “pulling out all the stops” to hand the park back but had been met with “real challenges” citing what he described as “quirky weather” and issues in dismantling the old site. The managing director said teams had been “relentless” in attempting to make time back.

Jim O’Brien, deputy development director, told the assembled audience how the new play park would be made available for use in January, alongside new pathways. New lighting will be installed from February.

The demolition of the old park will begin in March 2024 – four months later than planned – as well as growing new junior football pitches. These won’t be available for use for a further 12 months, however.

Mr Grinnell called on the community to “hold on for the last few weeks, we’re virtually there now.”

Alongside the new pitches to be installed in January is the introduction of swale drainage systems. Swales are depressions in greenspaces allowing for temporary storage of surface water.

In August, new proposals for a series of new properties and supported living accommodation on land which formed part of the former Alder Hey Hospital site on Alder Road were formally lodged with Liverpool Council. This was a reshaped application after developers Step Places and McCarthy Stone’s original designs to build four blocks up to five storeys high was scaled back.

Mr O’Brien said the hospital had been “super clear” about the use of swales for both the park and the development, which was met with hostility from some members of the community. Stephen McNally, chair of Friends of Springfield Park, said, “Swales should not be in the park.”

Mr McNally said the drainage system resembled a “canal” and should not have been taken from park land. In response, Mr Grinnell said he had been “absolutely assured by technical advisers” that the park would face “all sorts of issues and damage across the park” without the addition of swales.

Long-time campaigner Keith Jones accused the hospital leadership of being “deceitful” over the handing over of the park, calling the saga a “disgrace”.


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