Community group's bid to raise £50,000 to transform a ‘really loved’ area of Sheffield park

A Sheffield community group is today launching a bid to raise tens of thousands of pounds to transform a ‘much loved’ area in Bingham Park.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 12:05 pm
Linda Sibley, Zoe Buchanan with Alma, 4, Erin 4, and Like, 6, Charlie Jones, and Kerensa Hobbs. Picture: Chris Etchells

Sheffield Council announced in 2016 that it intended to flatten three of the tennis courts at Bingham Park, part of the Porter Valley Parks close to Ecclesall, Greystones and Ranmoor, to save maintenance costs as they had become ‘more and more dilapidated’.

The news caused shock locally as the courts had been used as a popular activity area for over 100 years.

Now, the Bingham Park Community Group, set up on the back of a meeting at the park’s bowling hut at that time, is looking to raise £50,000 to transform the area after a meeting showed the ‘energy’ people in the area had for it.

"We want multiple different ways in which people can engage with us," says Kerensa Hobbs. Picture: Chris Etchells

Kerensa Hobbs, who lives near the park and is a volunteer fundraiser for Bingham Park Community Group, said: "If you love Bingham Park, support this project. Because lots of people do really love it.

"It used to be a really incredible place where there were huts for the bowling green, and huts for the golf course, and huts for the tennis courts.

"The tennis courts would always be busy, but they have become more and more dilapidated over the years."Then we heard from the council back in 2016 that they were going to turn it all to landscape.

“So they were all going to go, apart from two courts that were going to be handed over to park tennis for the pay to play.

Charlie Jones is pictured on the skate park. Picture: Chris Etchells

"Just grass land with these two tennis courts where there used to be loads.”

On the back of this, a group of people from the community came together to protest at the changes.

A small group of volunteers, including Kerensa and 79-year-old Linda Sibley, who lives on Bingham Park Road and has been knitting ducks to raise money for the park work, got to work to “show people we love this and need this,” punctuated Kerensa.

There are now 15 volunteers, plus the support of volunteers of Friends of Porter Valley, the charity that Bingham Park Community Group is able to operate under.

Picture: Chris Etchells

Kerensa said: “We packed out the bowling green hut and from that BPCG was born because it as clear from the energy in that room and just how much people said there was nothing else in the area that would do what Bingham Park does.

“Everybody has got sloping gardens, kids can’t ride a bike round here without going in the park.

"It is this really premium bit of space for the whole community to rely on.

"So to lose all that hard ground was a really big deal.”

The group managed to come to a deal with the council, and two courts would still become ‘Pay to Play’ spaces – as seen in Millhouses Park – and three would now be run by the community group.

It was then up to the community to decide what they wanted, and Kerensa and the BPCG have been 'constantly' asking all age groups online through paper surveys.

One of the desired transformations came as a surprise to the group, however.

“There has been a lot of community consultation and from that has come out what is important to people and what they want to see it being - not just tennis courts”, Kerensa said.

"We wanted to use the court spaces as something different.

"A plain multi-use space, for kids riding bikes, and scooters – and then there was loads of support for a basketball and netball court, which kind of surprised us but there was a fantastic energy around that, so that wasn’t something we anticipated but it was there, the message and figures form the consultations were very clear.”

On top of this, one of the courts is going to become a ‘mini skate park’, an idea that has snowballed from the moment it was mentioned.

One court has already been resurfaced with bumps and a cycle track for kids and teenagers alike, and has proved extremely popular – something that Kerensa says ‘makes her heart sing’.

The group now need to raise around £50,000 to make the rest of the project happen – from resurfacing, to adding new fencing, and to purchase the nets that double-up for both netball and basketball.

She said: "Since we did the multi-surface area all the teenagers have been loving it and it just makes my heart sing, I can’t tell you when we have raised all that money and resurfaced to see it being used constantly by the teenagers on skateboards, and the little ones on scooters, it is just permanently in use, which is wonderful.

"We are really excited about the skate park because the energy for it goes right the way up from tiny ones, where when we had conversations with local people.

“The other day someone messaged me saying, 'my children have been making bird boxes with their dad and have raised £180, how can I give you the money because they really want this skate park.”

The group have already received some £8,000 from Sheffield Towns Trust, JG Graves Trust, Co-op and Henry Boot, but have now set up a public community Crowdfunder online to collect the rest.