Regeneration plans aim to give a buzz to park

Cheshire West and Chester Council has exciting plans to transform Hoole’s Alexandra Park.
There will be many improvements to the park in response to feedback following last year’s public consultation involving local schools and the community.
Improvements include enhanced planting, resurfacing of pathways, changes to toilet facilities, an outdoor dining area and upgrades to the tennis courts.
Gateway entrances to the park will be enhanced and there will be a full refurbishment of the pedestrian pathway network. New park furniture will be installed and there will be a new central park hub on the site of the former Veterans’ Hut which will host events, mobile catering and act as a meeting point.
The Council is also working with Chester Zoo to address the decline of pollinator insects by transforming the site into the borough’s first pollinator park.
The existing heritage flower borders will be rejuvenated with nectar rich plants to attract bees, butterflies and insects as well as providing seasonal displays. A bee trail will guide and educate park users through the gardens, which will feature bug and bee hotels designed by local school children.
Residents are invited to view the final plans and discuss how they can be part of Alexandra Parks future at two drop-in sessions. They will be held in Alexandra Park’s Bowling Pavilion on 20 February and 23 February between 10-noon.  All members of the local community are encouraged to attend.

Local campaigners have only given the plans a guarded welcome, with concerns about the proceeds of the former lodge next to the bowling green which was sold for £249,000.

Linda Webb, from the Hoole Community Forum, said that officers did not meet their promise to Hoole residents to feed back the results of the consultation about their Park.
Officers have completed their masterplan, which cuts out feedback to the community, and spends the capital reserves held from the sale of the Lodge without statutory consultation in 2013.

She wants the lodge to be bought back out of private hands. She added: “It is time….to push for the return of Alexandra Park Lodge to its rightful position as at the heart of the Park.”

There was also concern about Mickle Trafford Tennis Club operating and maintain the tennis courts.

Cllr Louise Gittins, Cabinet Member for Communities and Wellbeing, said: “Alexandra Park is one of Chester’s most prestigious heritage parks but is in need of some care and investment.
“Consultation involving the community last year to gauge views identified the key priorities and improvement areas for the project. The feedback from these sessions has shaped the final design.
“In an age where bee numbers are dwindling, the pollinator park will help encourage visitors to learn how they can help sustain a thriving insect population in their own gardens.
“Bees indicate how healthy our environment is and are crucial to our economy as they pollinate our food chain. The Council is keen to do its part in helping nature and our native bee population by the establishment of pollinator gardens within Alexandra Park.
“This regeneration scheme will secure Alexandra Park at the heart of the community, promote and value biodiversity, extend the range of amenities and leisure opportunities, provide learning and training prospects and give Alexandra Park a real buzz.”
The Council will be working with Chester Zoo to help form a Friends group for the park. Volunteers will also be encouraged to help maintain the soft landscape features of the park alongside the Council Street Care Service and Chester Zoo’s Wildlife Connections Campaign. Schools and residents can get involved in biodiversity counts and wildlife studies.
Dr Simon Dowell, Science Director at Chester Zoo, said: “Wildlife in the UK is declining at an alarming rate, but we can all make a big difference to help threatened species and this is a great step forward.
“As a conservation charity, we have been working for a number of years on our Wildlife Connections project to create new habitats in the region to help threatened UK species move freely across the landscape.
“The purpose is also to conserve and create space for local wildlife that is enjoyed and valued by all. We want a network of more, bigger, better and healthier spaces for wildlife. We want local people to be knowledgeable and passionate about nature and take action for wildlife.
“Cheshire West and Chester Council’s proposals for Alexandra Park align closely to ours and our partnership with the Council is key to successful conservation.
“The plans to create a pollinator park will help to engage more people in wildlife conservation and enable them to connect with nature during their visit while helping to protect threatened UK species.”