Greenbark Park is a public green space including trees, a pond and a walled garden, located on the periphery of Liverpool City, adjacent to the famous Penny Lane. The Watering Can, a privately owned cafe constructed within this public space within the last decade, had recently planned a greater expansion into the park – into the walled garden the cafe currently backs on to. This walled garden not only serves as a well enjoyed closed off space within the public park, but additionally was a space which was used as a place of remembrance for bereaved children, having received £3,900 of funding from the Marie Curie hospice.
On the 3rd of February this year, an application was submitted to Liverpool City Council to build an extension to the Cafe onto Greenbank Park, increasing the size of the building by nearly 75m². This expansion would overlap onto the walled garden, and in turn destroy much of that public space. This announcement was immediately and heavily contested by much of the community, who banded together to combat the development.
The relevance of this politically, and why Local Matters chose to get involved, is not only the importance of the park to its community and local residents, due to its historical connotations and practical benefit, but the broader fight to uphold local democracy. If the people within a community cannot at the least speak on new developments in their own communal spaces, then how can we expect them to be ‘allowed’ to tackle larger issues? We must enfranchise the public to understand what is theirs, and encourage the protection of these spaces. We must start at the grass roots, to achieve greater change in the long term.
To this proposal, locals responded via petitions and by contacting their Councillors. Particular resistance came from the Friends of Greenbank Park, a community interest group “who aim to promote and improve our beautiful green space for all park users”, according to their Facebook page. This included a petition and further information regarding the proposal, as well as directing people to contact their councillors directly, providing email addresses and instructions on how to comment on the planning application itself. Ultimately, informing people and providing methods for them to resist changes like these is vital, and we are very fortunate that such a group exists to take a stand against attacks on our public green spaces such as this proposal.
Councillor Laura Robertson-Collins was appointed as Cabinet Member for Environment & Sustainability by Joe Anderson in July 2019, after Liverpool City Council unanimously agreed to declare a climate emergency. Despite this, she gave no response to the emails or meeting invitation from Friends of Greenbank Park regarding the planned expansion of The Watering Can. Therefore, Localist volunteers decided to construct a community-driven letter, and delivered it directly to the door of Councillor Laura Robertson-Collins.
On the 8th of March, the expansion application was withdrawn, which comes as a huge relief for the local people, as well as anyone with a belief in local democracy, or a desire for protecting green spaces. This change in course is directly attributed to the complaints of the community, whose interests were thankfully taken into account and ultimately came together to form a sufficient resistance to the proposal. We are very grateful to The Watering Can for listening to the people regarding this decision, as well as to every single person who voiced their opposition, particularly Friends of Greenbank Park, for raising awareness of this issue and for continuing to care for this public green space in their community.