Range Road Community Park, on Range Road in Whalley Range, was once the site of five properties: Victorian semi-detached houses, smaller than those on the opposite side of the road, which occupied long narrow plots. The last of these was demolished in the early 1980s, having been neglected and left to become derelict.
Of the five plots, only the ownership of two is known; one is owned by a local housing association, which cannot make use of the single plot because of its long, narrow shape.
The uncertainty surrounding the ownership of the land has made the ground unattractive to developers. Consequently it has suffered from neglect and fly-tipping for many years, despite the efforts of Range Road residents to keep it clear.
Around 2002, the Range Road Residents’ Group came up with an idea to turn the land into a community park. From the outset, Councillor John Grant was involved with managing the project and Councillor Mary Watson helped the group to access funding through ‘Section 106′.
Section 106 Agreements or Planning Obligations are private agreements negotiated between local private developers and the council to provide funds for public use in the community in which the private developer operates. Developers have no control over how their S106 donations are used.
In the case of the Range Road project, the private developer was involved in developing a different area of Whalley Range, and made Â£10,000 available through Section 106 for Range Road at the request of the council.
The money has been used to create a barrier to prevent vehicles from accessing the land; debris has been cleared and some amazing animal scultures have been specially created and installed by chainsaw sculptor Tim Burgess:
When I saw these sculptures I immediately assumed that they were created on-site using existing trees which needed felling, but I was wrong; they were made from oak logs, transported to the site and set in the ground in concrete.
There is great controversy surrounding tree-felling and tree-maintenance in Whalley Range due to the activities of the Whalley Range Tree Group; group members will act as human shields to prevent the felling of any tree which is not diseased or dying. So for this reason, unfortunately, the Range Road residents were forced to import logs from another area for the sculptures, even though they could afford to lose a couple of trees from their community park in order to let more light in.
The Range Road Residents’ Group intend to carry out some planting in the Autumn. Once the Section 106 money is gone, there is no further cash for maintenance, which is a worry. However the residents are hopeful that the council will continue to support their efforts to maintain the Range Road Community Park, in particular by providing them with help looking after the mature trees on the site.
Me and my kids enjoyed seeing the sculptures on the land when we passed yesterday – it was an unexpected treat. While we admired the work, another family was posing for photos with the animal sculptures and a couple of guys drinking cans of beer were equally impressed.
There is some more information about the project at www.whalleyrange.org.
Tim Burgess, ex-Chief Superintendent of Greater Manchester Police, will be demonstrating his chainsaw sculpture skills over this weekend (27th – 29th August 2011) at the Cheshire Game & Country Fair at the Cheshire County Showground, Tabley, near Knutsford, WA16 0HJ.