Salford campaigners are banding together to restore a community garden in Blackfriars and stop flats being built on it.
Salford City Council has allowed the community to work on the Greengate land before deciding whether to go ahead with the Urban Splash development at a property and regeneration meeting on October 28.
Around fifty per cent of the plot of East Philip Street has been cleared by volunteers since June and they want to keep the land so they can restore it to its former glory.
Students based at Salford’s Worsley College recently chose the site as their regeneration project as part of their work towards the Prince’s Trust.
The group of NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) students are working daily to revive the garden.
One Prince’s Trust student, Jacob Driscall, 17, from Salford, said: “People want to put up buildings and the government want to buy the space because it’s messy, and they don’t think anyone wants to use it.
“So we need to show people that this space is for them, not for the government.”
Walkden South Councillor Richard Critchley said: “The population around Greengate and Blackfriars is growing rapidly, so it is now more important than ever that we protect and enhance what few green spaces there are.”
Cllr Critchley responded to the rising support of the community, stating: “I have always believed residents and volunteer groups should be given an opportunity to manage the site and develop it as a public green space.
“It has tremendous potential to be a focal point whole community, residents have always shown their passion and determination for maintaining and enhancing this area.”
Progress in the face of adversity
The campaigners hope they have persuaded the council to do a U-turn on the development plan and allow them to keep the site permanently.
In the meantime they need more help and funding, specifically to pay for green waste removal and skips.
The plot was abandoned in 2015 following a regeneration by the failed Biosphere Project, led by the Salford City Council Community Interest Company, which left debts of more than £400,000 after going bust in 2015.
Biosphere Project’s original ‘urban farm’ land before and after going bust in 2015.
The land then boasted a community allotment, chickens, bees and greenhouses, a forest garden outside and an `aquaponics’ system inside, where fish waste provides the food source for growing plants, and the plants provide a natural filter for the fish’s water.
The development aimed to encourage residents of the Blackfriars area to grow their own produce and provide for their community.
Back in 2015, then Salford Mayor Ian Stewart, branded the Biosphere Foundation’s efforts “money well spent”. However following the debts totalling £105,265, including £46,893 owed to Salford City Council, the Biosphere Project collapsed, leaving the ‘urban farm’ space dilapidated and overgrown.
The land remained unused for years, leading to actions taken in March 2019, when deputy Mayor of Salford Paula Boshell signed the formal decision to sell the land to Urban Splash to build a high-rise apartment block in the space.
The decision sparked an outcry from the local community.
One resident Marie Graham, a member of the Local Resident’s Association, told Salford Now: “When the news came out earlier this year, we were really quite angry about it.
“We spoke to some local councillors who very kindly took it back to council and asked for the decision to be pulled back.
“At this point it had already been agreed to sell the land to Urban Splash for development.
“Thankfully, the decision was called back in, and then put to consultation.”
Marie continued: “When I first moved in here a year ago, the first thing I saw was all these old fruit trees which were overgrown, and I thought we have to do something about that.
“We’ve had lots of meetings where we’ve been told that the council have no money to spend on this, and we’ll have to get on with it and do the work ourselves, and that is the proposal that has been put out by the Mayor.
“We’ll have to get on with it and do the work ourselves.”
With councillors and the community having stopped the £250,000 sale of the forest garden to Urban Splash in March, Salford City Council is now formally proposing to extend the period of community use while it ‘reviews the future use of the site’.