Controversy over reservoir plans for Boston Park

LAND-swap plans allowing a new reservoir near Boston Castle have stunned a community group which fights for the park.

Council bosses will transfer nearly 9,000 sq metres to Yorkshire Water to help supply 20,000 homes and Rotherham Hospital.

The utility firm will release 10,500 square metres in return — but this “used” reservoir land is of less value as a green space.

Janet Worrall, secretary of the Friends of Boston Castle and Parkland, said: “We were amazed at the announcement.

“Obviously, essential works need to be carried out but the secrecy behind this breeds suspicion.

“The friends have worked closely with the council over many years, securing lottery funding for the castle as well as many other projects, yet are overlooked in something as important as this.

“Although the council own the land, they are only custodians of what remains of the town’s heritage and will be judged by future generations.”

Boston Park is Rotherham’s oldest public green space, opening in 1876 on the centenary of the Declaration of American Independence.

Its top field  — the area eyed by Yorkshire Water — was originally used for cricket and gymnastics and is still popular with visitors despite no longer hosting sport.

The friends secured a £50,000 Biffaward grant for Boston Castle’s 2011 restoration.

Heritage Lottery Fund contributed £590,000 and Rotherham Borough Council invested the rest towards the £1.2 million project.

Janet said: “When the first bid for the restoration of Boston Castle was aborted in favour of Clifton Park, Thomas Rotherham College made a request to take over the field for use as a rugby pitch and there was a public outcry.

“It’s our opinion that the council long ago should have been sourcing further new funding for the park as a way of generating income instead of asset-stripping of our heritage.”

There are also fears the land transfer - expected to be approved at Monday’s Cabinet meeting - will add to congestion on Boston Castle Grove, Moorgate.

The council has suggested £228,800 of improvements at the park which Yorkshire Water could pay for, including £78,800 for the friends group.

An RMBC report said: “The new service reservoir would replace two existing reservoirs, which are coming to the end of their asset life.

“Over 20,000 properties and Rotherham Hospital are directly supplied from the site. Yorkshire Water has concluded that building on an area of Boston Park next to the current reservoirs would be the most appropriate location that meets all their criteria.

“The existing reservoirs would then become redundant, and Yorkshire Water would no longer require the land where they stand.”

The water firm could compulsorily purchase the land if the council refused. The reservoir project will need planning permission.

Polly Hamilton, the council’s assistant director of culture, sport and tourism, said that the proposal was great news for the park, with an offer of significant funding.

 

“Yorkshire Water have to consider their supply to more than 20,000 homes as well as Rotherham Hospital, and they have powers to compulsorily purchase the land.

 

“However, given the importance of the park, they have generously offered a sum of around £160,000 that we wouldn’t otherwise have available to spend on repairs and improvements, in addition to the extra land that has been offered.  

 

“This is great news and we are keen to explore how this opportunity might enable us to bring in additional external funding, thus increasing what we are able to do enhance the park, including highlighting its heritage and historical importance.

 

“The proposals still need to go through the planning process, and consultation with local people will take place before an application is considered by Planning Board.

 

“We have enjoyed working with the Friends Group over many years to improve the park and castle and have already been in touch with them.

“As soon as a decision on the proposed land exchange is made, we look forward to discussing the next steps with them.

 

“The whole project offers a great opportunity for the council, the Friends and local residents to work together on improvements to the park and castle which could be enjoyed for many years to come.”