Peel Park, located just behind Salford University’s main campus, is undergoing a £1.6 million refurbishment after the council’s successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. An additonal £0.9 million was added to this from various grants and money the council has managed to put together themselves.
Opened in 1846, Peel Park is one of the oldest parks in Britain and one of the first publically owned parks too. Once extremely popular, the park has seen a decline is residents visiting, and a rise in crimes in the surrounding area. According to streetcheck.co.uk in September 2016, 694 crimes took place within a one mile radius of Peel Park.
The two most dominant crimes were anti-social behavior and violent/sexual crimes. Back in 2004, a 23-year-old student was assaulted on the pathway in Peel Park, in 2010 four students were violently attacked there, and in 2013 a 75-year-old woman was sexually assaulted in the park as well.
When female students were asked about if they feel safe when in Peel Park, they said:
“Yes in the day, not so much at night. I walk more quickly through. More lights and CCTV that extend past the sports center down through the park would be good.”
“Walking through during the day is fine but at night I don’t really feel safe to walk through unless I’m with someone else.”
“In the day I’m fine, as soon as it gets darker and I’m by myself it’s a bit unsettling.”
“The amount of 2 minute taxis I’ve had to avoid walking through Peel Park at night time is unreal. I’m always mega paranoid especially since the nickname is ‘rape park’.
In addition to making Peel Park safer, Salford City Council aim to make it a more connected space, put in place environmental improvements along the River Irwell, re-open historic views in the park and reestablish tree cover to reflect the original design.
Work began at the end of August 2016 and the landscaping should take around nine months to complete. As well as cutting down trees to increase visability, the footpaths are being overhauled , a new access ramp, new play area for children and more seating provsions as well.
So far, several trees have been cut down in the park which the council hopes to increase visibility and improve safety, and land has been overturned for the new paths.
Roger Baldry of ‘Friends of Peel Park’ feels the cutting down of the trees is “exceptionally good” as it makes the park so much more open and therefore safer. It has also created more views from across the city and made the river walk more open as well. The large amount of trees cut down in the centre of the park is for a new entertainment area.
Mr Baldry also said, “There will be a park keeper appointed for when the park is reopened who will be located near the University Maxwell building. This should help improve security of the park.”
Friends of Peel Park’ are aware of the repupation Peel Park has sadly developed in recent years and hope the work taking place will assist this reputation in dying down. Unfortunately, Peel Park has been described as “a jewel that’s not sparkled in a long time.”
From old photographs of when the park was opened in the 1800’s, you will see how beautiful it used to be compared to the condition that it is in now. Peel Park has potential to be a brilliant area for both students and local people to use and enjoy. The park is one of the few open spaces from Salford to Manchester city centre.
Due to the park being one of the first publically owned in Britain, it has history to it which is why is why it was eligable for the Heritage Lottery Fund’s donation.
To have your say towards the revamp of Peel Park and to help do something about it, join the group ‘Friends of Peel Park’. Currently they have no student members. Their next meeting is taking place on the 23rd January at Broughton Trust near the university at 6:30pm. Go along and help make Peel Park sparkle again.
By Niamh Shackleton