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Green Lungs in North Chichester

There is a saying that land is priceless because they don’t make it any more.
Sepia photo of Oaklands Park as a dairy farm. What is now Oaklands Park, was once farmland.

Chichester was once surrounded by green land, woods and fields. But now, it is a wrap-around City, wrapped around by new estates, new roads, new constructions. We have lost our surrounding green lungs. The green has gone; red-brick and tarmac has come.

Another often-repeated local maxim is that our local green spaces are safe.

But history and recent events show this is not true.

Residents around Havenstoke Park were recently very upset to discover that part of their newly created green space is to be lost to a car park.

Car parks always seem to take priority.

Take for example, the Northgate Carpark constructed in the 1961 to serve the City and the new Festival Theatre.
Black and white photo of Northgate Car Park under construction in 1961. Northgate Car park under construction 1961

Most of the Southern end of Oakland Park is now built on, and while worthily occupied by entities such as the Football Club, the Racquets Club and the Festival Theatre, their parcels of land are now built up and much of it inaccessible to the general public.

What was once ten acres of green is now less than six.

The latest Planning Application for encroachment is by the Theatre. The proposal is to site another building on what is currently green. It involves laying a new path; and maybe a tree has to come down 1).

Add this to the tree that was cut down next to the Minerva Theatre last year, and the loss to drought of one and destruction of another by vandals, so once again we are witnessing a significant loss.

There are always good reasons for encroachments - for example, the Theatre is doing wonderful pro-social work to the enormous benefit of our community and the new building is no doubt much needed - but time-lapse photography would show a sad picture of a creeping displacement of green by artificial surfaces and buildings.

And we don’t notice this, nor comment on it, and thus we lose more green, more health-giving plants; we lose more trees, more wellbeing, more public access to a healthy and life-enhancing amenity.

Planting new trees is good, but they take years to grow and replace the benefits that mature trees currently give.

I doubt that protest about this new Planning Application will be effective, and anyway I’m conflicted because of the good work effected by the Theatre.

Nevertheless I think that the more people that write in and register their concerns the better, otherwise we will see another application sooner or later, by another local entity and so the Park will continue to diminish, dying a death by a thousand cuts.

What else can be done?

Well, there’s the Colts Pavilion, for years left fallow despite many organisations expressing an interest in using it- yet despite years of discussions, none have come up with a sustainable plan.

My proposal 2) is for its demolition and for its replacement by shrubs and trees, thus going some way towards compensating for the loss of green to the Theatre by some recovery of green in the Northern part of the Park.

Yes it’s a small area, but why leave a useless building in place, and why not set a precedent by demolition? Why do we always experience loss, but never gain?

Secondly, I want to see a better use of the garden on the Southern side of Oaklands House which belongs to Chichester University, and which seems to be an unused wasteland.

Give us/the District Council a lease of part of this, and we could use some of it for an extra public access area, i.e. managed parkland space, and another managed part for safeguarded deliberate floral/ecological diversity.

What else?

We (Friends of Oaklands Park) have collaborated with others 3) and planted a new hedgerow. This needs to be policed to guard against over-zealous strimming which in one fell swoop can destroy years of growth. Hedgerows are vital habitats for insects needed to feed fledglings.

I think there is room for more.

You like birds?

You need hedgerows! We have planted one.

You need birdboxes? We have installed some new ones. They cost £40 each.

You would like us to install more? Donations welcome!

What else? Let’s find out about our local bat corridor - it runs through the park, did you know that? - and let’s install bat boxes to encourage their breeding, though, once again this might be pointless unless we can see an increase in their food supply.

What else?

Those of us with gardens can stop manicuring them… but that is a huge and another topic for another day.

What else?

You, dear reader, please tell me!

David Cooke (Treasurer, Friends of Oaklands Park.)

I may have misread the Plans, feel free to correct me.
The author is a bit of a dreamer and this article is his wish list and personal opinion and does not represent the policies of Friends of Oaklands Park
Transition Chichester and the Festival Theatre
okpk/ok-park-threats.txt · Last modified: 2024/02/29 17:34 by Paul Stross

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