ON March 8, 2018, the Keighley News published a photograph – accompanied by an article – of Christopher Pickles, the then president of the Rotary Club of Keighley, standing on the land which is now commonly referred to as the ‘green space’. On behalf of the club he was calling for a campaign to save it and an initial attempt was made to find a public building to call a meeting – with no success at that time – mostly due to the inability to rent a suitable venue.
Since that date, the space left by the demolished college has certainly sparked a growing debate amongst the community of Keighley, if the growing quantity of letters addressed to the Keighley News are any indicator of interest.
At the end of last month, a letter on this subject was sent to Susan Hinchcliffe – the leader of Bradford Council – from the current president of the Rotary Club of Keighley, Mary Parker, and its environmental officer, Maurice Baren. This was reported in the Keighley News of February 25. To date, no response has been received from Ms Hinchcliffe.
The letter sets out a growing strength of feeling that this green space should be retained for use by Keighley citizens to promote a feeling of health and wellbeing, especially important now that the subjects of mental health and the environment are a widely-acknowledged problem. It would appear from popular opinion, local internet forums etc that nobody wishes to see a service hub built on that site, something that would cause months of disruption to the area and increase traffic to an already-busy section of the town.
As many people have commented, the green space has opened-up the approach to Keighley, highlighting many of the excellent buildings we have, including the library – the first public library to be funded by Andrew Carnegie in England. It would, taking this into account, actually be a very unwise move to build on this space, thereby depriving the community of an opportunity to improve health and wellbeing and provide a focal point to celebrate the town’s heroes – Ian Dewhirst and Captain Sir Tom Moore. A statue already exists of Sir Tom Moore – Bradford Council has stated it is supporting a fundraising campaign to purchase this. I am sure it would be equally possible to commission one of Ian Dewhirst and place both of them in the proposed town park.
The Rotary Club of Keighley was recently approached by a retired landscape architect offering his services free of charge to commission a design for the green space. It was felt this idea was an excellent one, including the possibility of including a ‘canopy’ of trees. This is something that Tom Moore’s daughter said Tom would like – thereby providing an ongoing heritage for the town. However, the idea would be useless without involvement by the wider community and this is something the Rotary Club of Keighley is eager to foster and promote.
Bradford Council has developed a plan to support the district’s recovery from Covid-19. One of the five major opportunities is ‘leveraging its cultural assets and distinctive places to spur economic growth’ – surely our current green space falls neatly into that category? Especially when you consider the definition “the district’s Economic Recovery Plan aims to build on Bradford’s City of Culture bid to implement a 10-year cultural strategy, Culture is our Plan, to attract investment that will align with local priorities for regenerating the city centre and providing spaces for culture, creativity and community development”.
Of course, this statement is obviously linked to Bradford rather than Keighley but surely outlying districts should be considered with equal importance in the plan. Bradford district is more than the city centre – or should be. This possibly only serves to reinforce a growing opinion held by many that Keighley is not valued by Bradford Council and we are considered as ‘second-class citizens’ when projects are considered.
If we were allowed to hold a public meeting, something not possible in the current state of affairs, the Rotary Club is convinced there would be a wealth of opinion and a strong following. There is certainly no desire for a service hub – not on that valuable potential asset to the town and with so many empty buildings available, surely something equally, if not more, suitable in terms of location could be found? Unless of course Bradford Council has a financial agenda with regard to this ground? Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw is eager to point out that Keighley already has a wealth of green spaces, Devonshire Park and Cliffe Castle being named specifically. However, these are not in the town centre and may even be inaccessible for some people.
What the community of Keighley wants – and has a reasonable expectation to receive –is a town park. Something that will echo the City Park Mirror Pool development enjoyed by the citizens of Bradford. Not an unreasonable expectation in the circumstances and one that would echo and complement our lovely Town Hall Square. A space where people could sit, reflect and enjoy the surroundings – with vistas of the hills and moors surrounding our Pennine home. A space very adjacent – within walking distance – of the shops and other facilities. A very decided way of encouraging visitors to linger and a space that could be used for potential outdoor markets and other events. Surely not too much to ask or expect and one that would give a definite ‘feelgood’ factor and aid recovery from the grim period we have all endured for the last year. Admittedly finance would be required and I am sure some of the very sound businesses we have in Keighley could be approached – possibly through the recently-formed Keighley Made which aims to promote education and business within our community for developing growth.
Could I therefore perhaps suggest that the Keighley News, with the aid of other organisations such as the RC Keighley, spearhead a competition to design a suitable park incorporating trees, flowers – even a fountain? In other words a usable space but also incorporating a feeling of safety and protection – something for all ages to enjoy.
Mrs Janet Pickles, community chairman, Rotary Club of Keighley
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This Article firstly Publish on www.keighleynews.co.uk