Park strife in Morecambe as residents ordered to stop working on community area

Residents of Morecambe’s West End who transformed a park by simple landscaping, weeding and planting have been told by Lancaster City Council that they must stop their work.

By Michelle Blade
Monday, 30th May 2022, 3:45 pm

Paul and Kerry Roberts of Cambridge Road said since they received a letter from the city council instructing them to stop work on Alexandra Park, it is now overgrown with weeds and covered in glass and rubbish.

Liberal Democrat Town Councillor Jim Pilling said: “A while ago the residents decided that the park had become forgotten, untended and unused.

"Along with volunteers they set about transforming the park by simple landscaping, weeding and planting.

Paul Roberts with the remains of his paddling pool shell which he put in the park to welcome people.

"They cleaned the area and it became a popular area for people to enjoy.

“Seven months ago they received a letter from Lancaster City Council instructing them that they must stop their work. “The council was going to consult with the residents and to undertake work there.

"Seven months on this has not so far happened, and the park has reverted to a garden of weeds which is not conducive to sitting in and enjoying.

“We think that this is a very sad state of affairs and urge the council to take their promised action, or to allow the residents to tend the park as before.”

Alexandra Park in the west end is now covered in weeds, dog dirt and litter after the council stopped residents maintaining the park.

The letter to the Westenders group said in part: “It has come to our attention that your group have been carrying out work in Alexandra Square without permission from Lancaster City Council, the landowner.

“All parks are owned by Lancaster City Council and any work carried out by volunteers or 'friends' needs to be approved by the Council.

“We do encourage communities to take pride in their area, which is greatly appreciated, but there are procedures that must be followed.

"For any works to be approved, a public consultation is generally carried out that is supported and agreed by the Council’s Public Realm Engagement Officer.

Alexandra Park in the west end is now covered in rubbish and weeds after the council ordered residents to stop maintaining the park.

“This letter is an instruction that no further improvements are to take place within or around Alexandra Square without permission from Lancaster City Council.

"If you would like to become members of the Friends of Alexandra Square as individuals, not representing a group, you would be very welcome.”

Paul Roberts, 49, who is retired, said: “We created our own Facebook page ‘Westenders Morecambe’ and we've now got over 200 members. We got the feeling people wanted to get more hands on, doing weeding and gardening and so on.

"We drew up a rota and there was someone in there every single day. All the kids, druggies and others got involved it was going so well.

Benches are not being maintained and there is rubbish underneath at Alexandra Park in the west end.

"A group of drunks planted a sunflower and they would sit over there and have a laugh and a drink. We actually spoke to the drunks, they said ‘no-one spoke to us before.’

"We installed a basketball hoop which was donated and also got a trailer and a water bowser donated.

"We were told we would be getting a cold, sharp shock, which was a letter from the council telling us to keep out of the gardens."

Kerry Roberts, 47, said: “All the residents, some people have lived here for 80 years, said they had never seen the park looking so tidy."

Paul Roberts said: “Our next door neighbour is a pastor with three young kids and he said to me he always wanted to take the kids over to the park. There was broken glass, needles and knives there and I said ‘I’m going to change that.’ We cleared it. It’s all of us, we can all do this.

"It has a knock on effect, the kids were behaving but as soon as the rota for the park stopped that was when the trouble started.

Benches at Alexandra Park are damaged and weeds are growing uncontrollably.

"The basketball hoop was ripped down by the council and dumped in a heap on the floor.

“The kids tried to get the hoop back up again so they could play basketball

"I bought a shell shaped paddling pool which I painted and put in the garden. It said on it ‘welcome to your garden’ and it is now damaged and overgrown with weeds.”

Kerry Roberts said: “They have done nothing in the park for eight months now and it is destroyed.”

Councillor Dave Brookes, Cabinet member for parks and green spaces, said: “We greatly appreciate and value the support we receive from the local community to improve our parks and open spaces, and are more than happy for any member of the public to help clear litter and weeds. But any structural changes, such as installation of equipment or new planting do need our approval, not least to ensure that are they safe and have wider community support.

“The council has already helped a group of residents in the Alexandra Square area to set up a constituted Friends of Alexandra Square group. The advantage of a constituted friends’ group which works closely with the council is that it opens up opportunities to apply for substantial amounts of funding, whilst ensuring that the sort of improvements made to a park is what local communities want and need from these important spaces.

“The partnership is currently working with a landscape architect towards developing a masterplan for the area following an extensive consultation with local residents and which reflects what they want to see in their local park.

“Anyone wanting to have their say or contribute to making improvements to Alexandra Square are most welcome to join the friends group. To register an interest email [email protected] and someone will be in touch.”

Cambridge Road resident Paul Roberts with the lighthouse at Alexandra Park before he was told no more work can be done on the park by Lancaster City Council.