QWAG believes a huge opportunity to realise the full potential of Manor Park is being wasted.
The Environment Agency’s planning application for the regeneration of Manor Park has been submitted – and what dismal reading it makes. The project summary proudly boasts that one of its design objectives is to increase access to the River Quaggy and improve opportunities to view the river and enjoy its wildlife. But the reality is that for fully half its length through the park the river would be hidden from view behind a densely vegetated band of thorny species. And views to the river along the rest of its length would be from behind permanent railings 1.5 metres high, which the Agency itself admits would be highly visually intrusive and have a significant negative impact on the naturalistic woodland and riverside character. The plan allows for unimpeded access to the river at only two places – a mere 25 metres – along a river frontage in the park of approximately 300 metres.
Manor Park prior to the River Quaggy Flood Alleviation Scheme Since the beginning of 2005 Manor Park has been used as a base for contractors working on the final stage of the River Quaggy Flood Alleviation Scheme. Prior to this, one third of this small underused park was ‘lost’ behind railings which fenced off and isolated the riverside from the rest of the park (see photo, above). QWAG has campaigned for several years that at the end of the scheme the opportunity should be taken to restore the river and integrate it into a regenerated park.
As a consultee on the project QWAG highlighted the restorations of the River Quaggy at Chinbrook Meadows (2002) and Sutcliffe Park (2004), where making the river and its associated wetlands fully accessible to the public had been the key to the success of these schemes. The application accepts that open river access has positively enhanced local parks and notes that the Agency encourages open access to waterways. So why does it propose such limited access?
The security issue
A plan of the proposed densely vegetated band along the River Quaggy in Manor Park
The application claims that a densely vegetated band of thorny species is required to prevent access by park users to vulnerable properties whose gardens back onto the river. QWAG’s view is that rather than reducing the risk of crime, by forming a screen it could actually encourage miscreants to carry out criminal and anti-social activities at the backs of houses free from observation. Any security fencing or planting can only be really effective if it is placed on the residents’ side of the river.
The style of planting is not in keeping with the woodland character of the riverside and similar ecological benefits could be achieved by less dense, more sympathetic planting – and without the detrimental effect on the river’s ecosystem caused by the reduction of light levels over a considerable distance.
The safety issue
A plan of the proposed bowtop fence along the River Quaggy in Manor Park
The application claims that mature trees rooting into very steep slopes down to the river represent an unacceptable health and safety risk unless a riverside boundary is put in place. QWAG strongly challenges this assertion. The “very steep” slope that is “at times” exceeded is in fact only 30 degrees. There are numerous local examples of rivers with more steeply graded banks (and even vertical concrete walls) without any fencing. Further upstream on the River Quaggy itself at Chinbrook Meadows and Sutcliffe Park there are board walks and dipping platforms over deeper water than is likely to be encountered in Manor Park. At neither of these locations has it been thought necessary or desirable to put barriers in place.
The Agency’s proposal for a riverside boundary (over 100 metres of visually intrusive railings plus 150 metres of dense vegetation) is an unnecessary solution to a greatly exaggerated risk. QWAG’s view, that there should be no boundary restricting access to the river, was echoed in the responses to a public consultation, which were heavily weighted towards there being no railings.
There’s no access – but apparently the barleycrush planting will give a riverside feel! QWAG feels very strongly that, in respect of the River Quaggy, the proposals put forward in this planning application do not match the aspirations for the project outlined in the project summary and only minimally integrate the river into the park.
A huge opportunity to realise the full potential of Manor Park is being wasted. QWAG has responded to the planning application with its own proposals which it believes would make the park a far more valuable asset to the local community.
QWAG will post updates on the progress of the planning application as further information becomes available.
QWAG’s full response to the planning application can be downloaded as a Word document (44kb).