2:56pm Thursday 20th December 2012
A POPULAR green space that was once threatened with housing is being returned to its former glory, thanks to offenders on a community payback scheme.
Developer Haboakus scrapped its controversial £30m project in June to build nearly 250 homes on the former allotments at Pickards Small Field and Kembrey Grass due to unforeseen delays and opposition from residents and councillors.
A community group, the Hreod Burna Parkway Conservation Group, was established to press ahead with alternative plans to reinstate the allotments and create a community forest.
Yesterday, the plans became reality as four offenders on community payback with probation began clearing the site.
Community payback supervisor Roy Benfield said: “There is a lot of work to do, the site hasn’t been used for a long time.
“People have already come out and said what an improvement it is already which is great.
“The offenders get a lot out of it – a sense of achievement.
“One of the lads arrived and said to me ‘this place hasn’t been used for years’ and that is what I’m looking for.
“They also get some rural skills working on the land and every day they come here they will see how much of a difference their work is making.”
Members of the Hreod Burna Parkway Conservation Group were on site yesterday to see for themselves how the work was coming along.
Coun John Ballman, (Lab, Gorse Hill & Pinehurst) who is a member of the group, said: “This is a really big day for us.
“There is a really good three- year plan in place to bring the area back as a community urban forest and community allotments, and the council are supportive of what we are doing.”
Mel Sharpe, a resident and member of the group, said: “I think the work being carried out is brilliant. Without councillors Ray Ballman, John, Rod Bluh and Rochelle Russell we wouldn’t have been able to do it.
“We are hoping that the work will be complete in three years time, and we are thinking about holding a forestry festival next year, which would be great.
“We want to get schools and public groups involved and we will have disabled access to the allotments as well.”
The work to create the community forest will include planting hundreds of trees and an area of gorse and putting in footpaths.
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