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A study of the potential to enhance the green and open spaces of Stocksbridge

SRB5 Report by Jim Flanagan and Sheffield Wildlife Trust for SVP



1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1. Background

In January 2000 Stocksbridge Futures invited Sheffield Wildlife Trust to compile an open spaces feasibility study, funded by the Stocksbridge SRB (Single Regeneration Budget) Round 5 (SRB5).

This feasibility study is designed to mirror a similar feasibility study for the Manor and Castle SRB area of Sheffield. The Manor and Castle study has led to the development of a community environmental regeneration action plan for the sustainable use of open spaces. The aim is to maintain and/or enhance the value of open spaces and provide a range of needs and uses for local people, businesses and visitors. The key feature of the plan is community involvement and ownership at all levels and stages of implementation. All stakeholders are encouraged to contribute to the development of a 'Green Estate'. This is essentially a linked network of projects and programmes that could provide the springboard for the development of community environmental regeneration.

Stocksbridge shares some similarities with Manor and Castle. There are some striking landscape features and settings that offer many vantage points giving outstanding views. It has a history of mineral exploitation (coal, ganister and sandstone quarrying). The local perception of parks and open spaces in Stocksbridge, certainly some of those within the inner, most urbanised area, is similar to that found in the Castle and Manor area. 

It is, however, the striking contrast between industry and settlement and its largely rural, upland Pennine fringe setting that distinguishes Stocksbridge from most of the rest of Sheffield. Stocksbridge has been an important centre of steel production since the mid-1850s. Since this time the industry was the major source of employment for the community but the introduction of new technologies over the last 20-30 years has led to much fewer people employed in the works than formerly.

In spite of the years of upheaval in the steel industry Stocksbridge has now a relatively low level of unemployed people. This is very much lower in comparison with other areas in Sheffield, such as the Manor and Castle, but the skill base is still limited and many local jobs are part time or attract low levels of pay

The level of social exclusion is certainly less than in many other parts of Sheffield but there are sharp differences in some areas between wealth and poverty, for instance, in levels of car ownership and receipt of housing benefit and income support. Some of these poorer areas (Shay House, Stubbin and Whitwell) resemble parts of the inner city of Sheffield. There are few facilities for teenagers. Many disaffected young people in Stocksbridge have been involved in the vandalism and misuse of open space (in common with youth from many other inner city areas) but not quite to the same extent as in the Manor and Castle areas.

However, not all the problems occurring with open space in Stocksbridge can be blamed on young people. Graffiti and vandalism are only a part of the problems that affect open space in Stocksbridge. Careless discarding and accumulation of litter is widespread and fly-tipping on some sites is obviously generated from industrial and business activities. All these features contribute to a poor image of the local environment in Stocksbridge.

There is great potential to transform and regenerate these and many other areas. Imaginative, but realistic and practical solutions will be needed for the regeneration of these. Local people must play a central role in achieving this regeneration and in partnership with other stakeholders. Sheffield City Council (particularly its youth service), South Yorkshire Forest, local business, public utilities and many other landowners can provide much impetus to open space and countryside regeneration. It is very much to the credit of the former Stocksbridge Engineering Steels that they initiated much of the work to improve open space and countryside in the area over the last dozen or so years (beginning with their own open spaces in and around the works). However, these achievements need to be built on and strengthened. Future work will need to follow a much more strategic approach, and ensure all sections of the community are involved.

There is immense wealth and diversity in the countryside surrounding Stocksbridge. This could provide a vital element in such an approach. There is a rich local history, in particular, the Victorian industrial and social heritage. All this taken together with the local landscape provides unique opportunities for the development of tourism that could attract investment and generate more training and lead to jobs for local people.

Unlike the Castle and Manor project there has already been a good deal of action to encourage the use of open spaces and countryside all over the Stocksbridge area but the impression is clearly one of a lack of overall coherence. This lack of coherence has been recognised and there have been recent attempts to adopt a more strategic and co-ordinated plan. Although much work still needs to be done there are now new opportunities emerging that can help develop this.

This feasibility study has, therefore, been commissioned at a fortuitous time. The projects currently in train or already researched, together with the potential of ideas and projects proposed in this study, are evolving simultaneously with the emergence of several sources of funding that could ably support them. The need for an overall strategic plan on the current and future use of open spaces and countryside that benefits all parts of the local community as well as preserving landscape character and wildlife is, therefore, an urgent priority. Such a plan could avoid the pitfalls of uncoordinated, isolated and piecemeal initiatives and ensure that work is taken forward within the larger picture of the regeneration programme for Stocksbridge.

1.2. Approach and methods

One of the first tasks of the Feasibility Study was to assess current sources of information and data on open space (including the countryside within the SRB5 boundary). This ranged from the strategies and policies of the main stakeholders and landowners to management plans and previous work done for various sites as well as specific studies on Stocksbridge and Deepcar. Information from user surveys and consultation exercises with people relating to the local environment, including parks, open spaces and countryside, was also sought as the time available for this study could not allow for any additional consultation. Section 10.0. presents a summary of these main sources of information. 

For convenience, the SRB5 area was then divided into zones based on very general land use and landscape characteristics and based on similar ones identified in a previous study by University of Sheffield Landscape Department students. Four zones were identified as follows:

  • The Inner Zone (covering the centre of Stocksbridge and Deepcar and characterised by a mainly pre-1940s built environment).
  • The Outer Zone (featuring post WWII housing and the green fingers (created as a result of this development extending into the Inner Zone).
  • The Industrial Zone (covering the operational and some non-operational land of British Steel and former industrial land along the east side of the River Don, including the restored and active parts of More Hall Tip).
  • The Countryside Zone (covering land outside the above three zones).

An assessment of the extent and location of open spaces and sites was then compiled from a desk study using 1:10,000 maps and aerial photos. Reconnaissance visits to check the status of sites in Stocksbridge and Deepcar was also made. The assessment included sites already managed or with a history of management in the past. From this a site survey programme was compiled.

Two types of open space were identified. The majority of smaller open spaces, which could be small areas of amenity grassland around housing estates, but also much larger ones if land use was uniform across the site such as playing fields or brownfield land, were subject to a Green Audit. Data collected on these included types of habitat, use, misuse, features (trees, walls, informal paths, seating, play facilities etc.) ownership and management etc.  Most road verges and private open space in the built-up areas were not included in the green audit. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. Such areas were included because of their high visual amenity or they were representative of a particular type of open space - such as areas around old people's homes. Also included were some composed of several separate parts that, aggregated together, make a significant contribution to the local stock (ie at various road junctions such as Armitage Road on the Stubbin Estate).

Larger areas were identified that had wildlife or recreational value, such as Bracken Moor and Townend Common, were made part of an ecological survey and assessment. The survey and assessment covered information on:

  • Historic and other basic information
  • Basic plant communities
  • Plants were recorded within these communities according to abundance using the

DAFOR scale (ie D=dominant, A=abundant, F=frequent, O=occasional & R=rare)

  • An assessment of their overall value for wildlife and recreation is provided using a simple classification (Wildlife value in range A-E, where A=high, B=good, C=modearte, D=poor, E=little value; Recreational value where 1=good, 2=moderate and 3=poor recreational value.

Each ecological survey is accompanied with a brief outline management plan.

Sites where such an assessment had already been carried out within recent years and/or were already the focus of an active management plan were not included. The study excluded most of the larger sites in the countryside area as the bias was for close proximity to the urban and urban fringe area affording existing or potential ease of access, and, therefore, of most potential for community use and involvement. Time was limited too. However, this report recognises the importance of sites not covered in this study in the establishment of a network of different types of regenerated site across the area. Information on the ecological survey is contained in a separate volume to this report (Appendix A)

The survey programme targeted eighty-five green audit sites and twelve sites for ecological survey. Most of these sites were located in the Inner and Outer Zones. The Industrial and Countryside Zones had about a dozen green audit sites between them. However, they did have major share of sites for ecological survey. Section 4.0 of this study provides a summary of coverage and some initial results of survey and audit.

Feasibility ideas were then investigated for their application in Stocksbridge using the Manor and Castle model. A total of over sixty ideas have been included in this Feasibility Assessment grouped into several themes fromarea wide strategies, such as tackling litter, development of community resources such as composting projects, enhancing environmental sustainability, recreation, promotion of visitor centres for tourism, landscape improvements and countryside management. Nearly half are assessed as having a definite application. Nearly a third need more research and only two considered not advisable.

Actions for each zone, covering specific sites and linking projects with an overall strategic framework are described in Section 7. This section illustrates the potential for major projects on about two dozen sites ranging from nature reserves, community parks, heritage sites and pocket parks and other open space facilities. Suggestions are made on now such an action plan could be developed in Section 8. 

Menu for this Section is in the right hand column

 

Stocksbridge SRB5 Greenspace Audit undertaken by Jim Flanagan for Sheffield Wildlife Trust - see their Community Action Handbook - full of good ideas for your local site

Introduction

Overview

Main open spaces

Findings - ecology and green audit

Existing projects, policies

Stakeholders

Towards an Action Plan

Action Plan

Inner zone

Outer zone

Countryside zone

Industrial zone

Linking projects

Next steps

Sources

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Latest update 01/02/2011