History of Public Ownership

The builders, Seddons, started to develop Bank Farm on Middlewich Rd in the late 1960’s and through the 1970’s. They began with the fields to the south of Middlewich Rd (now Grasmere Drive, Coniston Drive). They then developed the Bramhall Drive area starting at the Moreton Drive end and finishing with Ravenscroft.

Holmes Chapel was at this time part of Congleton Rural District Council (RDC) in Cheshire. The RDC’s were not planning authorities and the planning authority for these Districts was Cheshire County Council. After council reorganisation in 1974, Congleton Borough Council (CBC) was formed and had its own Chief Planning Officer. This information is important only to emphasise the fact that before 1974 planning officers were not very forceful when negotiating with developers for open space and community provision and, after 1974, it took some time for them to become more proactive. Added to this, there was little public pressure as few people were aware that community facilities could be provided on the back of development.

With the increased housing and a growing population public open space in Holmes Chapel became an issue. Landowners were unwilling to sell land for open public space preferring to put in for planning permission in the hope of getting development prices. For the same reason developers were reluctant to part with land because of its value with planning permission

The Parish Council had countless meetings with Seddons about open space provision on their developments. Because they were anxious to avoid building houses next to play areas (which might deter potential purchasers) Seddons’ preferred option was to provide amenity space rather than formal play or sporting recreational space.

On the estate south of Middlewich Rd they agreed to release the land adjoining the River Croco at the end of the various cul-de-sacs of Coniston Drive with a footpath. This made a pleasant walkway but was of little value for play or formal recreation. When it came to the development of Ravenscroft, CBC stepped in and called various meetings. Pressure was brought to bear on Seddons and they eventually dedicated the Dane Valley below Cotton Wood and Ravenscroft to CBC, provided that it was only used for informal recreation, although they did allow a kick about football area on the flatter wider area at the westerly end. Seddons no doubt thought they were being very generous but, in reality, the area would be almost impossible to develop: steep slopes, difficult access, high water table and erosion by the river.

It was too good an opportunity to miss and the terms were agreed, even though it did not provide space for organized sport. However it did take Seddons a long time to enter into a formal agreement but eventually the land was dedicated on 10 October 1984. The deed contained a provision that the land should be used for informal recreation and no buildings should be erected on it.

Once the land was acquired by CBC, maintenance issues were a constant source of debate. CBC had a policy of maintaining areas like this by letting land out to grazing but that was problematic as some people were intimidated by the cattle and the barbed wire fencing restricted access. To develop the area as a public park would have involved high maintenance costs, but leaving it untouched would have made it almost inaccessible. Ultimately, a track was put in to allow maintenance vehicles access from Daresbury Close so that the grass and paths could occasionally be mown.

Time has moved on and the scheme being undertaken by the Parish Council and the Partnership will improve the access whilst retaining the natural state of the area and the planned environmental projects should even help to extend its biodiversity. The intention is to raise the profile of the Dane Meadow amongst the residents of Holmes Chapel and to make them aware of this wonderful free natural resource on their doorstep.

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