Views from the Riverbank of a Genuinely Sustainable Future
Verdant pastures and woodlands a few minutes walk from Preston City Centre
Preston City Council's "Composite Masterplan": a vision or a nightmare for our local, national and international environment?
This "masterplan" shows the so-called "Central Park" building development on a large proportion of the South Ribble Green Belt. The green corridor running roughly south from the river is Preston Junction Nature Reserve, which would be hemmed in by the 4,ooo houses, retail park and industrial estate (the pink, blue, and brown sections on the map) proposed for this area, with the necessary roads and infrastructure. All of this would be built on what is currently a fantastically diverse green belt area, including meadows, woodlands, and amateur league football fields. The remaining section of Green Belt opposite Avenham & Miller Parks is ear-marked for conversion into a formal park area, which would offer a much less diverse habitat for wildlife and for people than the area currently offers to communities both sides of the Ribble, and visitors to the area.
As you can see, along to the left, all the allotments for this area and the remaining football fields on Penwortham Holme also figure in this "masterplan" for potential development.
It is clear that reducing this area's green spaces with housing and business developments, reducing the green belt, diverse wildlife habitats, our local amenities, and floodplain provision of this area will NOT be either "creating a sustainable community" or "providing us with quality open space" as the Riverworks documents claim!
Local people, and local Councils such as Fylde Borough Council, envisage a future for ourselves and the Ribble which is truly sustainable.
Riverside residents have been sending in their ideas for an alternative vision to the Riverworks barrage and Green Belt housing development for the future of the Ribble and local Green Belt.
Here are a few tasters...
'As the Ribble and Green Belt are wildlife corridors, and are home to the nationally-significant Ribble Way and the Lancashire Coastal path (as well as home to the internationally important and protected Ribble itself!), why not build wildlife bridges across the roads which cut through the area, such as Liverpool Road and London Road?
These would provide safer migratory routes for wildlife, safer crossing for us bipeds, and create a fantastic and innovative vision - both literally and for the future - and really put Preston and the Ribble on the map.
After all, we already have one - the disused railway bridge which runs from Preston Junction Nature Reserve into Avenham & Miller Park has been reclaimed by grasses and small shrubs - and even Bee Orchids - and provides a wildlife bridge between the Parks in Preston and the Nature Reserve in Penwortham - and great access for people to the countryside area from the Preston side, which is exactly why this bridge has a footpath on it: the Victorian planners insisted that a footpath be included on this bridge to allow access from the Parks to the countryside for the people of Preston.
Wildlife Bridges are an innovative, stunning, and sustainable development.
It would be another great marketing strategy for Tourism to designate the whole of the South bank Green Belt a Nature Reserve, rather confining the central section along the disused railway line. This would preserve this area's own significant ecosystem for future generations, and officially complement the environmental standing of the area in terms of eco-tourism that the Ribble already offers.
How many other cities can boast of having an internationally important ecosystem running through it? Add to this a central Nature Reserve and put Preston on the map as the First Green City of the North West instead of just aiming to be the 3rd City - which Preston already is, of course.
I understand Lancashire County Council wanted to declare this Green Belt a Country Park some years ago but some of the land being owned by different organisations made this difficult... I'm sure with the will to do so, the "Ribbleside Nature Reserve" could become a reality - if the will exists to build housing on most of it then surely the different ownerships aren't an insurmountable problem.'
‘Ribble Valley Country Park
We need a positive vision for the lower Ribble Valley. I'd like to see a Country Park established like the very successful Mersey Valley Park (see www.merseyvalley.org.uk ).
The Mersey Valley Country Park involves different authorities along the Mersey valley from Stockport to the Manchester Ship Canal working together. There's a Countryside Warden Service which organises community events, an eco-centre, nature reserves, education for local schools and community groups as well as managing wildlife conservation, angling, guided walks, pond dipping and other events. It works really well and it has turned the poor, polluted Mersey valley into a community and environmental asset enjoyed and appreciated by many.
The Chorlton Water Park also acts as an eco-tourism destination for canoeing, angling, windsurfing and pond dipping. It won a Green Flag Award in 2005/6. In the Ribble valley the Brockholes sand and gravel quarry will soon be released as a bird and wildlife reserve but further quarrying upstream might eventually be used as a water park. The Ribble Way long distance footpath passes through the Ribble valley area under threat by Riverworks. If a country park was set up, the Ribble Way could be the spine of a network of paths and bridleways. This could turn the lower Ribble valley into a regional eco-tourism destination.
River valley based country parks are successful elsewhere: Ferry Meadows in the Nene valley, near Peterborough, and the network of parks in Tameside, especially the Medlock Valley and Daisy Nook Country Park (see www.tameside.gov.uk/countryside ). The Irwell valley, which also accommodates the private East Lancashire Railway, is the site of a linear public art and sculpture trail (see: www.irwellsculpturetrail.co.uk ) The trail passes through another attractive country park at Clifton
(see: www.salford.gov.uk/leisure/parks/countryparks/cliftoncountry.htm ).
In the Ribble valley one of the greatest treasure troves in English history was found at Cuerdale (see: www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/vikings/cuerdale_01.shtml ) How about a discreet piece of public art, like those in the Irwell valley, at the site?
The potential for our valley to continue to be a peaceful, environmentally-sensitive and wildlife rich area is great if we share a more positive vision than the narrow, short term one of the Riverworks proposals.’
‘The recently published church report "Faithful Cities" which is available from http://www.culf.org.uk/content_1.0.asp?p=2 has many interesting things to say about urban regeneration and recommends among other things active concern for the natural environment and a people centred approach: Most relevant to Preston and the Ribblle is the following paragraph on P.64
While some UK cities, such as Manchester and Birmingham have begun to provide city centre spaces which have some of these qualities, in the main we continue to allow developers to grab the best of land close to water. A trip down the Thames from the Tower of London to the Thames Barrier and beyond illustrates how little of regenerated Docklands riverside has been left for public space: where there is public space, it appears neither to have received adequate investment nor to have been designed to serve the needs of new local communities. It seems to bear witness to a model of regeneration in which the powerful forces of commerce sideline the needs of local people if they do not generate economic returns.
6.62 The attraction of building by water has meant that land close to canal banks, urban rivers like the Irwell between Manchester and Salford and the Aire in Leeds are not seen as potentially attractive public open space but as a development opportunity. We have something to learn from our European neighbours and cities like San Antonio, Texas about a proper balance between commercial pressures and the creation of good cities, which provide spaces that lift the human spirit.
Enough here to convince me that our religious duty and calling is to speak up load against the money driven plan to dam(n) our river!’
Greg Smith, Broadgate