Residents go into battle against plans to extend Burnley College on cherished 'rec' used by generations of families
Furious residents are protesting against plans to expand Burnley College they say will swallow up a recreation ground and green space that has been popular and well used for over four decades.
They are planning a protest rally and get together on Saturday at the site, known as Clifton Street/Stoneyholme rec, in a bid to halt the ambitious plan to create a 'North Campus' at the college.
If it gets the green light the development would include an industry hub, three education buildings, a five-a-side pitch and a car park set among green parkland within the existing Princess Way campus.
It carries on from expansion work currently taking place at the college with a new four-storey teaching building due to be completed by the end of the year, and the college’s sports and fitness centre set to grow in size.
This new proposal was submitted to Burnley Council as a hybrid application.
Phase one is a full application incorporating an industry hub, a five-a-side pitch and an access road from Burnley College car park.
The second phase, an outline application to seek whether the scale of the development would be acceptable, covers three education buildings, a car park, landscaping and a replacement bridge to provide access from Holme Road.
The industry hub will accommodate teaching, training and advanced manufacturing spaces. Primary users will be students, but facilities and equipment will be made available to local businesses.
Resident Leanne Cregg, who has lived in the area all her life, said: "This site is used daily by dog walkers, families and children playing.
"It is used throughout the year from summer to winter and we have sledgers coming from all over Burnley when it snows. Generations of families have used this site and still do and to take it away would be so wrong, it is a vital community asset."
The site, bounded by Rectory Road and Clifton Street, has all weather and basketball pitches and is surrounded by woodland and fields.
Protestors have carried out their own research and discovered the site is a haven for owls, bats and other wildlife which they say should also be protected.
Protestor Kelly Decruz said: "This rec has been in use for over 40 years and we will put up the biggest fight ever to preserve it.
"This is a great little community down here and this belongs to us. There used to be other equipment here, including a slide, but over the years these have been taken away from us but we still use this land and it is a safe place for our children to come and play.
"We aren't against the college expanding but why should we have to lose this vital green space for it when there are many other places in Burnley more suitable?"
Resident Faz Khan said the site had been a lifeline ans safe haven for hundreds of members of the Asian community during the pandemic, saying: "This is a vital piece of green space that is used daily by the community, a place for people to come and walk and also for young people to come together and play cricket and other games.
"It is accessible on foot to so many people and that is so important."
Councillor Andy Fewings who said that while he was supportive of the college expanding he did not believe it should be at the cost of green space.
He said: "I think that there are plenty of sites in the town, including brownfield sites, crying out for investment and an empty school – a purpose built education facility which would be better.
"This is not about opposition to the college reaching its ambitions, but firm opposition to just taking the easiest option and robbing the residents of vital green spaces.
"The council has declared a climate emergency and presumably has encouraged the college to take this green space as the council owns it – that is an absolute dereliction of duty.
"Now with the coronavirus pandemic we should be recognising the value of outdoor space for our residents’ physical and mental health. From a wellbeing perspective, the council has got this completely wrong."
Residents have launched a facebook group, Save Clifton Street and Stoneyholme Rec, in support of their protest and dozens of people have posted messages of support and also photographs and memories of the site being used over the years.
A spokesman for Burnley College said: “We are working closely with Burnley Borough Council on our proposed expansion plans and envisage a campus which is accessible to the wider community, retaining valuable green spaces and enhancing the area’s natural resources while providing the very best education and training opportunities.”