How we did it ... Country park taps vein of community history

Project: Frickley Country Park lies on the site of the former Frickley Colliery and contains features to mark the mining heritage of the 84ha site.

Frickley Park
Frickley Park

Background: The colliery employed 4,000 workers in its heyday but closed in 1993 after the decline of the mining industry, leaving buildings, a mine shaft and tonnes of spoil.

Who is behind it? Wakefield Council, Yorkshire Forward, the Homes and Communities Agency, English Partnerships, Groundwork Wakefield, White Young Green and Thorne Environmental.

Project aims: To create a country park for use by the local community and turn a derelict site into an attractive resource for everyone to enjoy. There will also be 160 homes.

Skills involved Partnership working, project management, heritage expertise, landscaping, consultation.

It was once a thriving colliery producing large amounts of coal and providing thousands of jobs for miners. Frickley Colliery near Barnsley in South Yorkshire opened in 1903 and the first coal was produced two years later.

At its peak in the 1930s the colliery employed 4,000 workers and there were still 1,800 on the payroll in 1983. But by 1993, when the colliery finally closed down, only 722 workers remained and after that time the site was left as it was when the last miner went home. British Coal sealed up the pit and site owner Wakefield Council demolished the colliery buildings.

The impetus and funding for the £7 million Frickley Country Park initiative came from English Partnerships' national coalfields programme, which was set up to support communities devastated by the pit closures of the 1980s and 1990s. However, parts of the site were contaminated and there was 200,000m3 of spoil to deal with before renewal work could start.

A masterplan for the community scheme was granted approval in January last year and in just 18 months all the landscaping and removal of the huge spoil heaps has been carried out. The project was officially opened early last month by housing minister John Healey.

Regional development agency Yorkshire Forward managed the project in close co-operation with the local authority and English Partnerships. The country park boasts 70,000 trees, new wildlife habitats, bridleways, footpaths and allotments among impressive landscapes. A sports pitch has also been provided for the old colliery football team, Frickley Athletic.

"There are a lot of loyalties to the colliery and people wanted to see some reflection of the mining heritage," says Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) Yorkshire Team investment and regeneration manager Chris Kwasniewski.

A local liaison group was set up to ensure that the local community was involved in the project and a six-strong group of ex-miners, the Friends of Frickley, was also consulted on the plans.

A 650m timeline has been created to represent the depth of the shaft which serviced the four seams mined at the site. One of the hard surfaced areas left behind from a colliery building has been converted into a performance area with seating.

Under the masterplan, outline planning permission was given for 160 homes on the site. This development will form the first phase of a wider regeneration plan for the Westfield Lane area in South Elmsall being prepared by the council.

According to HCA Yorkshire and Humber head Rob Pearson, it is hoped that the park will act as a stimulus to other initiatives. Meanwhile, arrangements have been made for its future management through a partnership between the council and the Land Restoration Trust with the help of volunteer rangers.

With the transformation from a disused industrial mining site to a country park completed, the local community can now enjoy the new open space. At the same time it will remember the important role that the colliery played in its history.

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