Labour discourages Whitefield residents use of local parks

In December 2013 I moved back home to Whitefield after 6 years away. During our time away we rescued Dexter, our Border Collie, from Manchester Dogs Home and with him we have re-discovered all the parks and fields where I used to play when growing up here.

Our nearest park is just around the corner from my house, the park off Thatch Leach Lane. Unfortunately, this park has been unusable for the five months we have been back due to flooding. In fact, I know that this park has been bad for many years as my mum and dad’s house backs on to this park. Anyone who lives near this park will know that, at present, it is impossible to walk from the Thatch Leach Lane end to the Albert Road end (following the path past the cage) without walking through two foot of muddy water.

Having given up on Labour-controlled Bury Council ever sorting out this flooding, we have been taking Dexter to Heaton Park, a place where I spent many a teenage afternoon getting up to no good! Heaton Park, being one of the largest municipal parks in Europe, is an ideal place for walking Dexter for hours on end. I admit that the level of traffic near the farm does make me nervous letting Dexter off his lead, but for the most part we have explored for hours and both of us have staggered back to the car park exhausted many a time.

But soon I may have to stop going to Heaton Park with Dexter. You see, Heaton Park is too far for me to walk Dexter there, so if I want him to have the freedom of open space, I have to drive him there. It’s about five minutes from my house by car.

Labour-controlled Manchester City Council, the owners of Heaton Park, are consulting on the introduction of year round car parking charges. Currently parking charges only apply on summer weekends and school holidays, but the proposals are for charges of:

First hour: £1.00
1-3 hours: £2.00
Over 3 hours: £3.00

Until this weekend we have been using Heaton Park almost every day, sometimes twice a day. We often spend 1-2 hours in the park, each time we visit, so these new charges are going to hit us hard if they come in. Certainly if I were to park and pay these new charges, I would be clock watching.

I thought our council was supposed to be encouraging use of our parks and open spaces, after all, regular park users’ health will benefit from the exercise etc. – these new charges will simultaneously discourage regular use of the park and probably see shorter duration of stay from those that do use and pay.

While I sympathise with local residents, if there is any room on nearby side streets I am more likely to park my car there than in the Heaton Park designated car parks. I imagine I would not be alone in doing this. I doubt Bury Council has taken this anticipated problem up with their Labour counterparts in Manchester.

I’ve read through the proposals and was surprised that no thought had been put into the possibility of a season ticket or some kind of discount for regular users.

Yesterday we discovered that a car parking attendant was on duty at Heaton Park, and because there had been no warning anywhere that this was about to start, no money in our pockets meant no parking inside the park’s own facilities.

For now we are exercising Dexter on the field behind Prestwich Heys’ ground (Grimshaw Park) just off Sandgate Road, but this is small, used by Marauders Junior FC at the weekends and generally not that pleasant a place to spend an hour or two. The motorway and electricity pylons do not exactly make a great view!

I have no confidence in Bury or Manchester’s councils to think about the needs of Whitefield residents like myself – which is why we should all prepare ourselves for the introduction of these year-round charges at Heaton Park, following a ‘tick boxing’ “consultation” exercise.

Welcome home Steve.