Sunday, 15 January 2012

News - Pressure is mounting for clean-up of dam and park (Sheffield)

VOLUNTEERS are pressing for political support to spruce up one of the most popular parts of the Porter Valley in Sheffield.

Initial plans centre on desilting Forge Dam and repairing the dam walls, before improving the area around the cafe and improving the playground.

The project is being driven by the Friends of the Porter Valley, who are already steering the reopening of the Shepherd Wheel after a £1m fundraising campaign.

Increasingly, their attention is turning to Forge Dam. “About half a million people a year are going through the park and, according to our surveys, between a fifth and a quarter are from outside the immediate area,” said Ann le Sage, who chairs the Friends.

“It’s a park for Sheffield and at present it’s dreadful.”

Volunteers have spent hundreds of hours clearing scrub and saplings from surrounding woodland, but are looking for council support for the first part of a proposed programme to desilt the dam and to remove tree roots and strengthen the walls. The estimated cost is £360,000.

Ann said she understood the financial pressures on the council, but with the offer of volunteer help and the credibility of the Friends proven at Shepherd Wheel, she had high hopes.

Later it would be a case of securing funds, probably around £1m, from the likes of the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out the rest of the programme.

Ann added: “There is a lot of thinking to do once we get answers from the council. With goodwill and hard work, we should be able to make it.”

A masterplan, backed by the Friends and the council’s south west community assembly, was drawn up after a public consultation exercise.

The dam was cleaned about 20 years ago and long before that it was used for boating. “When we did the consultation, I lost count of the number of people who said they had been on a boat on the dam. We are not planning to go down that route, although we are not ruling it out.”

Ambitions include trying to prevent further desilting of the dam by working with landowners upstream, and the possibility of a small hydro power scheme, for education purposes as well for generating electricity for the cafe.

The Friends are aiming to have Shepherd Wheel back in action as a visitor attraction this year after raising £500,000 themselves and with £500,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It will be run by Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust, which already operates Kelham Island Industrial Museum and Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet.


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