Poole rallies for community orchard

Residents in Poole have asked the Council for permission to develop an unused land into a community orchard

An unused piece of open land in Poole has received the nod from local Councillors to be developed into a community green space.

The unused area of land, in Branksome, known as Turner’s Nursery, includes an area occupied by the Branksome Heath Middle School. The unused piece of land in question lies adjacent to the school building and has been neglected for over 40 years. As a result, it became covered in brambles and wild grass .

The site, situated between Victoria Road and Upper Road, comprises one hectare of land.

Turner's Nursery

The school wants to retain a third of the land for its own use, but the remaining space will be used by the community for an orchard and shared with school children for environmental walks.

Harriet Stewart-Jones, a senior member of local residents group Friends of Turner’s Nursery which formed in 2005 to campaign for the open space, said: “We were in talks with the school so that the site can be developed into a wildlife friendly community orchard for growing cherries and various fruits. The school agreed to our request and we are seeing how best we can proceed now. We have a permaculture expert surveying the land and checking the soil conditions.”

Harriet Stewart-Jones says she would like the land to be used by school children and residents:

[audio:http://www.thebreaker.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/turners-final-142031-i7786908.mp3|titles=Turner’s Nursery]

Cherry trees have been planted on the site

Efforts to put this piece of land to greater use have been happening for over a decade. But it was the initial reluctance on the council’s part that did not see any action being taken on the land.

“In 2003 the leading party in the Council wanted to see greater community involvement to decide the fate of the land. After community groups came together, the ball started rolling,” says local ward Councillor Brian Clements, who has been supporting residents plea for a community use.

In October last year, the Friends petitioned the council, requesting permission to develop the open space into something more attractive. “We are finally talking. For the past four-five years we have been running from pillar to post convincing councillors to look into the Turner’s Nursery issue,” added Ms Jones.

A view of the brambles on Turner's Nursery

Local residents and dog walkers are pleased by the progress. Local dog walker Ms Woods said: “The idea of a community orchard will benefit the school children and advance their learning. It would be too easy to erect a few swings and a slide, which would end up being vandalised and the haunt of underage drinkers at night.”

The school initially proposed to use that land to expand on their playgrounds by building AstroTurf’s. “Our point was that education is much broader than marking space for playgrounds. We are glad the school is cooperating with us,” added Ms Jones.

The issue took this long to resolve because the site is designated as education land, so community use cannot be a priority. But environmental officers at the Council are working on an agreement, which factors in the clause to avoid problems in future. While one hurdle has been crossed, Wessex Water has announced plans to lay a sewer line under the site. “This will take another two years. We do not see the orchard coming up before that is completed,” said Ms Jones.

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