Burnley’s Towneley Park to lead Britain’s ‘green’ revolution

Towneley Hall
Towneley Hall

A HISTORIC Burnley estate could be transformed into Britain’s biggest permaculture park.

The 450-acre Towneley Park could become a sustainability zone – producing food and natural resources for the town and educating the thousands of people that visit the area each year.

The ambitious plans would spark the green revolution in Burnley and Groundwork Pennine Lancashire, which is behind the bid, believes it could become a beacon of best practice in the UK.

Hopes are “the jewel in Burnley’s crown” could even be made carbon neutral by managing the park with environmental principles.

Coun. Roger Frost, chairman of the Offshoots Permaculture Project at Towneley Hall, was excited about the pioneering plans. He said: “A bid is being put together now. It is a long-term aim. It would be the biggest one in the country.

“In a permaculture park all activities are done in an environmental way. You don’t use chemicals and you only use machinery that is good for the land.

“The idea is that the park will not only be a place with flowers and trees, but somewhere we grow food. It does it in a sustainable way that educates and includes as many people as possible.

“It is a living, breathing, educational resource for the whole community.”

The plans were announced after Offshoots Permaculture, which operates in the walled garden at Towneley Hall, won a prestigious bronze award for best education and sustainability awareness project at the International Green Awards.

Hopes are to expand on the success of the project which gives hands-on education to thousands of visitors each year on permaculture, crop growing and sustainability principles.

Phill Dewhurst, Offshoots project manager, said the plans will improve historic Towneley Park and could bring about massive change in the town.

“During the Industrial Revolution a big part of that was engineered in this town and there is no reason why we cannot recreate that. We need a green environmental revolution. We need to focus on sustainable technology, good growing, energy systems and if we pioneer this as a town then Burnley can have a sustainable future.

“We really believe strongly this is the case. We can achieve so much if we expand that. Then the idea will become a reality.

“We have got plans to establish a 184-hectare permaculture park using the permaculture principles.”

He added: “We don’t want to change Towneley Park, we want to enhance it.”

Currently, at the one acre Towneley Hall site there are community training programmes which incorporate organic food production, eco-building construction and eco-art therapy.

But if funding is granted this could be expanded across the park and Mr Dewhurst hopes Towneley can once again become a food producing estate.

He said: “We used to grow a lot of food in the town. It was famous for barley, oats and soft fruit for Hartley’s Jam. It was sustainable.

“We want to restore this function for the people of the town.”

He added: “Farming is no longer perceived to be financially sensible. But instead of looking at it as a profit-driven exercise, we can see it as a social engagement issue or a workless issue by working with people.”

The Offshoots project has already helped thousands of people since it opened 14 years ago and Mr Dewhurst wants the project to help thousands more.