Chester’s newest park opened on Monday. The George Street Pocket Park has brought back to life an area by the Shropshire Union Canal and city walls that have been unused for many years.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Wellbeing said: “The George Street Pocket Park is part of our Chester One City Plan Regeneration Strategy and Waterways Strategy, helping to improve the connections with the bus interchange and city centre businesses and promote the unique history of the city walls and waterways.
“This area will have been passed by many people not even knowing it was there. The completed transformation has added a new area to enjoy the walls and canal.
Following initial survey work the site was cleared and the initial concept design proposals were amended to avoid underground utilities.
Wide consultation considered archaeology, conservation, ecology, trees and building regulations, with Historic England, the Canal & River Trust and Scottish Power helping with the concept designs. The design was also strongly influenced by the backdrop of sandstone found within the city walls and the Shropshire Union Canal.
Julie Sharman, Chief operations officer, The Canal & River Trust said: “We are delighted that the pocket park has been completed, as one strand of Chester Waterways Strategy it will give local people the opportunity to enjoy the Shropshire Union Canal from a new perspective overlooking the Roman walls and the canal cutting. As the charity which cares for the nations canals and rivers we know that life is better by water and through this new park more of Chester’s residents will be able to take the opportunity to improve their personal wellbeing.”
Public consultation followed on the amended concept design. The first phase of specialist conservation works to restore the original entrance and introduce a second entrance involved repairs to the original sandstone pillars and new gate pillars installed using St. Bees sandstone.
The original wrought iron gates were restored and a second pedestrian gate was made from the existing railings that were cut out to open up the new entrance.
The new viewing platform gives views of King Charles Tower, the Shropshire Union Canal and the city walls. The platform allows for inclusive access from the main pathway.
To protect the roots of the lime trees, excavation on the site was limited. A geotechnical survey also advised against extensive excavations. Mini-piling was used as the most suitable solution for the timber structures.
The pathway has been built up to avoid disturbing the root protection area of the limes. The path surface allows for rain water to reach the tree roots. Public access is restricted to most of the embankment to help preserve undisturbed areas for wildlife.
Lavenders have been planted at the edge of the pathway, to provide pollination opportunities for wildlife. Woodland meadow seeding and bulb planting will help to diversify the species mix of planting on the embankment. Bird and bat boxes have also been installed, to support bird and bat populations in the area.
Hillyer McKeown LLP, as neighbours to the park kindly sponsored the opening event. Partner Richard Burnett said during the opening: “We are succeeding because Chester is rapidly being seen to support local creativity, learning and entrepreneurs, encouraging inward investment and stimulating business growth.
“Chester is also starting to become a vibrant, distinctive and dynamic place to live. This is crucial for business owners such as me, because good people are at the very heart of what we offer. This Pocket Park and the King Charles Tower Garden may be relatively small developments, but the compounded effect of all these changes to the local environment is huge.”
The Council’s Waterways Strategy (2014) includes improving the connectivity between the canal, river and city encouraging increased inward investment and increased tourism. The Waterways Strategy identified the opportunity to create the new pocket park by George Street to open vistas of the walls and cutting and encourage active use, especially from workers/visitors to the health centre. For further information on the exciting regeneration plans for Chester see Chester’s One City Interactive dashboard on the Chester Growth website