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Heaton Park scores £3.5m

But some residents are still unhappy about land sell-off

Published on July 21st 2010.

Heaton Park scores £3.5m

Manchester City Council is finalising the deal that will see Goals Soccer Centres Plc invest £3.5m in a new football facility in Heaton Park.

The planning application was passed in February 2010 but had attracted more than 1,800 letters of objection from local residents and the MP for Bury South.

If the deal to dispose of part of the park to Goals is approved, it will also earn £90,000 a year for the council and that amount may rise depending on the turnover generated by the facility.

A report to Manchester City Council’s Communities and Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee said the new centre, which will include 12 five-a-side pitches, a seven-a-side pitch, and six tennis and netball courts, will attract a 'significant' number of visitors to the park each year, as well as progressing the city’s sporting development programme.

The planning application was passed in February 2010 but had attracted more than 1,800 letters of objection from local residents and the MP for Bury South.

English Heritage also raised concerns about the scale and design of the development.Support for the proposals was received from bodies including the Heaton Park Trust and the Football Association.

'Since the planning approval the city council has received more than 30 complaints about the decision to grant planning permission,' said the report. 'A significant number of the complainants object to the location of the facility in the historic park on the grounds of detriment to the park and the consequent parking and traffic problems on nearby roads which are matters already considered by the planning committee.

'The city solicitor and the head of planning are dealing with the matter and preparing a response.'

In the end the benefit to the city and the region should be what decides the case. Heaton Park needs money, it's a vast area, it's used by tens of thousands. In which case Confidential feels that allowing the development to go ahead is correct. The proposal as it stands doesn't appear to harm in any way the historic nature of the park - the Grade 1 listed house and other important heritage structures are well away from the football centre.

As for the parking issues, this is perhaps a non-argument. Parks need to be popular. The complainants perhaps forget other intrusions into Heaton Park over the past century: the tramway, the boating lake, the installation of the old Town Hall facade, the Papal visit in 1982, Oasis more recently, the new playground. None of these fit with the old historic character of the Wilton's family seat, but they do make Heaton Park the popular destination it is now. Perhaps the complainants should recognise that often in these places last year's whingers are this year's enthusiasts.

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33 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

squirrelitoJuly 20th 2010.

Heaton Park was bequeathed to the people of Manchester - not the council. Wish they'd remember this.

ActuallyJuly 20th 2010.

Dear Squirrelito, Heaton Park was bought by the City Council not bequeathed. Facts please.

J E SibberingJuly 20th 2010.

So do you, as a Manchester person Squirrelito, mow the grass, organise the events, plant new trees, empty the bins, patrol as a security person, maintain the golf course, run the cafe, feed the animals?

Thought not.

AnonymousJuly 21st 2010.

Arg, as the article says Heaton Park is huge and the sport zone is nowhere near Heaton Hall so why illustrate the story with a picture of the hall, as if it is still under threat? The MEN keeps on doing that as well, but that's only to be expected from them - we expect better of you Mancon!

None of the complainers actually pay any Manchester council tax (as they live on the Bury side) so get all the benefits of the park and none of the cost. There will be plently of places left in the park for them to take their dogs for a poo as I believe this development covers less than 2% of the total park area.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJuly 21st 2010.

Anonymous did you read the piece and the last few paragraphs? As for the image, we have to use a picture of something people might recognise rather than a picture of some grass. We are pro-pitches not anti.

AvoJuly 21st 2010.

Heaton Park is absolutely massive. I regularly do British Military Fitness training sessions there and hardly ever train in the same location within the park twice in the same week. I doubt having a few football pitches will detract from people's enjoyment of the park.

AgricolaJuly 21st 2010.

Is Avo now as fit as a fiddle?

AnonymousJuly 21st 2010.

As far as I was aware, these are Long Lease deals?

The 3.5 million will be the investment in the facility, the £90,000 p.a. the rent?
I think therefore that "scoring 3.5 mill" of the words "land sell off" could be misleading.

I may be wrong, but that is the normal way these deals are structured.

The idea being that the land will revert back to the council in 50, 75 etc years after providing a steady income stream, but that it will only be used as a football centre and has to be maintained as such.

Elizabeth FitzgeraldJuly 21st 2010.

As a regular user of Heaton Park and a North Manchester resident I am very disturbed by this. Once the legal and public consensus on this becomes established how far does it go? A football pitch today and Tesco tomorrow? A dangerous precedent is being set on something I thought was protected by covenant. These things tend to happen incrementally and god knows where we will be when the cuts start hitting. Up in North Manchester are very proud of our green spaces and I hope whatever commercial contract has been agreed is water-tight so we do not pay in clean-up and traffic costs what we just think we have made on the deal!

AnonymousJuly 21st 2010.

It's a park! Footie pitches belong in a park! Tesco doesn't! Elizabeth, I also live up in North Manchester and am also proud of our green spaces such as Heaton Park, Blackley Forest and Boggart Hole Clough.

Elizabeth, did you complain when they built the bowling pavillion at Heaton Park? If not, why not?

Daniel WildJuly 21st 2010.

I bet the same people who don't want the land to be used for sport are the same people who don't want lads playing football near their house / car / etc. I think it's a great idea. It's not like anyone wants to bulldoze the hall or the farm and put a Starbucks there is it!

DibigoJuly 21st 2010.

What's wrong with not wanting lads playing football near your car? Does anyone WANT lads playing football near their car? I don't. If I was given the choice I'd say no over yes. Football park at Heaton park is a good idea though.

Daniel WildJuly 21st 2010.

That's my point - they don't want them near their home or car etc where they could do damage, but then object to a development that would provide suitable facilities.
I live in Altrincham at the moment and sooo many people are on a rant about how there's no commerce in the town and so many shops are empty, and there's hardly a week goes by without someone asking me to sign a petition to fight development of new commercial areas as 'it will ruin the town.' Similar situation. I guess people just don't like change...

squirrelitoJuly 21st 2010.

@Actually: You're quite right. Wrong term used by me. It was sold by the Earl to the council on condition they maintained it for the pleasure of the people of Manchester - no mention of lopping bits off to sell to commercial organisations.

@TBLZebra - what's your point? I, along with 440-odd thousand other Manchester residents don't, no. Does that mean I can't appreciate this beautiful space and want to keep it as a whole? Again, no.

its my business too!July 22nd 2010.

I think the council is at fault here by allowing this, yes the land may have been bequeathed to the council (ie the people not the bureaucrats at the top!!!) by the Egerton dynasty, but for the enjoyment for the people who love the open parks and spaces we have in Manchester. Therefore its NOT available in any shape or form to any contractor who puts in the highest bid! public parks are exactly that - PUBLIC not PRIVATE ENTERPRISE! i agree it is a dangerous precedent to set and don't understand why more people are not opposing this. I am also against any part of it being used as a school too for that matter especially a faith school!!!We have enough football and other sports facilities available in this city - I play badminton at various centres in Manchester and would be horrified if there were any suggestion for a facility in any park and would oppose that too. Its merely a bit of back patting, prestige seeking,ass kissing and the usual "deals behind closed doors" scenario just how this council likes to operate. We already have a tennis centre at Eastlands for Christs sake newly built!! Stop wasting land and money on hairbrain ideas that the majority dont want, listen to the people for a change and stop thinking about the cash going through the tills, greed is crucifying this city as it is, wake up councillors and stop finding excuses to waste our hard earned taxes!

Daniel WildJuly 22nd 2010.

Are the majority against it? The article only says 'a significant number.'

Jonathan Schofield - editorJuly 22nd 2010.

Listen folks the park was not bequeathed it was bought by the Council. Paid for with more than £200k of cash in 1902 when the 5th Earl of Wilton sold it to the Manchester Corporation. So it wasn't a gift with strings attached like Piccadilly Gardens. Hence the Council can manage it as they see fit.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
David JacksonAugust 24th 2011.

Where are details of these 'strings' available?

David JacksonAugust 29th 2011.

ie the conditions of the bequeathal of Piccadilly Gardens?

DylJuly 22nd 2010.

I lived over looking this park last year, the area cannot handle general Sunday taffic and especially Bonfire night let alone all this. There are outdoor Pitches in the same place.. this is just greed, the area is leafy and nice in this part of the park.. this is such a shame. Its not required and I fear a white elephant that will leave a hole in the park forever.

KathJuly 22nd 2010.

The justification for this development seems to be that these facilities are desperately required - I'm not convinced that's true. Metres away from the park, all-weather football pitches can be hired at Manchester Maccabi, there is a Play Football Centre nearby in Bury, a quick internet search shows plenty of other facilities in Manchester.Tennis courts are available and used in most local parks already. The area of the park they have been planned for is already football pitches - I often run across the area past teams playing there.The area is also used for cross country races in winter. I have no issue with the area being used for sport, it already is. It's the encroachment on beautiful open land that I have a problem with, this is a big development.

Mixed MetaphorJuly 22nd 2010.

DYL I'd pay to see that: 'I fear a white elephant will leave a hole in the park forever'.

JonJuly 22nd 2010.

Jonathan, interesting point about Piccadilly gardens. I hope you're not holding that up as an example of how the council upholds it's public space covenants?

I think that the issue here, for me anyway, isn't using the park for sport and recreation - which has got to be a primary purpose for a city park. Rather it's that this is a building development of artifical pitches which cover the park, rather than make use of natural terrain (as the bowls and golf do). This type of development is better targetted at brownfield sites, rather than one of our always under threat green spaces (a similar thing was attempted but repealed in Chorlton recently...)

costa cartaJuly 22nd 2010.

Heaton Park acts as a magnet for chavs and low life. Go there on a Sunday and see how many pit bulls and trackies there are. There should be a dress code for those wishing to use the park and dogs should be banned. Better still charge for entrance. That'd keep the shaven headed, tattooed brigade out. Scum of the earth.A football centre is a good thing and should be heartily welcomed by all.

Smyth HarperJuly 22nd 2010.

Jon, the development isn't going to "cover the park"! It's 3 hectares out of 260!!

Those who are interested can take a look at http://bit.ly/7zEGPT from the Heaton Park website (http://www.heatonpark.org.uk) which sets out the size, scale and purpose of the development.

I think anon makes a good point above. Where were these protestors when the bowling pavillion was built? Surely it's exactly the same argument.

Football pitches in a park... Whatever next - big hats for popes?

Daniel WildJuly 22nd 2010.

Banning dogs from the park @ Costa?? That's mental, and would probably be about as welcome as a f*rt in a crowded lift!

JonJuly 22nd 2010.

Smitty, I meant cover as in 'spread over a surface'. In this case, spread over the grass, soil etc that makes up natural terrain. If they want to fill 130 hectares with grass pitches, I won't object at all...

I play football twice a week on astroturf. However, the places I play at were built on previoulsy industrial brownfield sites, which seem a far more appropriate use of land.

angelaJuly 22nd 2010.

Why spend 3.5m on football pitches when there is open grassed area already for people wanting a game of football. Why is the council not spending some money on doing Heaton Hall up, which has been discussed but declined, why? Heaton Hall is beautiful if you have ever been inside. I was amazed at what it looks like, the outside lets it down. If they spent money on doing it up to it´s former glory and charge people to go into the Hall. Just like Tatton park do. They charge to go into the Hall and Gardens so why can´t Manchester council do something similar with Heaton Hall.

There are other ways of making money in Heaton Park rather than making all those football pitches which in a few years will look a mess. Look at Heaton Parks history, what events they did years ago. Halle orchestra played in the park and brought thousands of people, so why not do things like that again. More events for everyone is better than a few football, tennis and netball courts.

One question, if this is going to generate £90,000 a year where is this going? Apart from staff and the up keep of the many pitches, lets see if they invest the profit back into the park as suggested earlier by bringing the Hall back to it´s former glory.

Daniel WildJuly 22nd 2010.

I'm with you there Angela. The Hall is amazing inside, and if the investment was made to restore the outside then they could justify a charge for entry, and make a fortune on hiring the Orangery out for weddings (which they already do, but I can't imagine it's that popular)

ParkLoverJuly 22nd 2010.

Heaton Park is at the top of the road where I have lived for over 20 years and as a Manchester Council tax payer I contribute to its upkeep so believe have a greater interest (and right to comment)than Bury residents and their MP. Heaton Park is one of the best municpal parks in the world but its running cost are enormous so it has to include facilities that will generate income. Central Park which, in my view, is nowhere near as good as Heaton Park except for the fantastic skyscraper backdrop, has the most amazing restaurant set on the lake (the Boathouse) which is as good as any top class eatery but very reasonably priced and with a system where you simply turn up, ask for a table and they page you when one is free - no booking equals total equality, a great way to ensure anyone can eat there. Why, in an essentially better park, do we have to endure sub-standard Council catering facilities serving frozen chips and burgers and unhealthy snacks? We can do better than this. I agree with Angela that the Hall is fantastic. I used to spend hours there as a child/teenager wandering round and imagining I lived there. It's truly magical but since the fire it has fallen into disrepair and badly needs restoring. I too feel the Council should look at whether it could become a National Trust property with paid entry to the Hall only. In terms of making money from other sources this is done now - all year round and there's something for everyone. The events I've attended recently include three 'Shakespeare in the Park' Summer plays, the Oasis concert, Bonfire night fireworks display and a family fun run. There's always something going on and long may it continue!

JigsawJuly 23rd 2010.

Yeah, so I'm completely against the building of the pitches, lived in Prestwich, north of Heaton park by about 2-10 minutes walk away all my life, and recently moved away, but I can still see the effect this development will have on my old friends and family in Prestwich.
The last paragraph argues for the construction of the pitches, but is fatally weakened, the tramway for example, hardly touches Heaton park, it goes underground and is securely fenced away. The visit of the Pope and the Oasis concert were both temporary nuisances, I remember how busy the streets were on the Oasis days, but we got over it, it was 4 days maximum, and the new playground is but a small piece of land in comparison to the new pitches that will be built.
If the Park is really struggling for money then i should issue a fee for touring the great hall, not ruin the place where me and my friends spent lazy weekday afternoons after school playing football, rugby, having picnics and generally loving our time together, building the pitches here would take away the opportunity for close future generations from experiencing the same natural euphoria I have.

Dan the ManJuly 23rd 2010.

"The complainants perhaps forget other intrusions into Heaton Park over the past century: the tramway, the boating lake, the installation of the old Town Hall facade,"
All were installed before motoring became popular. All of these are free to visit, the boating lake is an attrative feature, and does provide some income, not much, but at least some.
"the Papal visit in 1982, Oasis more recently, the new playground."
1-2 day events, these have never been an issue.
What is being discussed here is a permanent feature, that fences off a large section to paying customers.
It is not attractive in any way. You want a new sports place, build it elsewhere. Heaton Park already has playing fields
As for "the new playground", Have you seen that? the crowning jewel in this playground is a water play area for the kids, which I've seen working once. How much did that cost?

NellyBJuly 28th 2010.

The area being developed is already put over to football pitches that need improvement already. For the Council to do this would cost a lot of money the Council doesn't have. It only seems logical to bring a company in to pay for and run this facility! Local groups have been promised use at fair rates so I see it as a win-win situation.

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