Campaigners announce first step to save park heritage project after devastating fire

A rainbow rises above the fire-ravaged lodge in West Bank Park. Photograph: the Backhouse Project
13 Nov 2016 @ 4.40 pm
| Environment

For the volunteers who have worked so hard, this was meant to be a time of celebration.

After three years campaigning to develop a new heritage centre and community café in the park keeper’s lodge in West Bank Park, things were starting to move.

This week they were about to announce new funding for the next stage of the project, which commemorates world renowned botanist James Backhouse’s links with the park. And that news came after they reached their £5,000 target for a feasibility study, half through a crowdfunding campaign and the other half from an anonymous donor.

Then word came through last Tuesday night: the lodge was on fire.

The lodge on fire. Photograph: Carl Nickson, Eboracum Security
The lodge on fire. Photograph: Carl Nickson, Eboracum Security

Although three fire crews tackled the blaze the damage it caused was extensive and serious.

Pictures the morning after showed the lodge roof still burning, and much of the old building gutted. The cause was “suspected to be deliberate” the fire service said, and police are investigating.

So what happens now?

‘Determined to continue’

Jane Cullen, founder of the West Bank Park Heritage Project, outside the park-keeper's lodge in a still from the campaign video
Jane Cullen, founder of the West Bank Park Heritage Project, outside the park-keeper’s lodge in a still from the campaign video
Public meeting

Holgate Methodist Hall, Acomb Road, York YO24 4AE

Wed Nov 16 @ 7pm

Volunteers from the West Bank Park heritage project have announced a public meeting to plot a way forward.

Founder of the project Jane Cullen said: “From the start our aims have been to bring people together, build pride in our community, celebrate our incredible history and generate revenue to help protect the park.”

The fire hasn’t changed those aims, but she said “the damage is very serious and future of our project is now in question”.

The former park keeper's lodge in West Bank Park the morning after the fire. Photograph: YorkMix
The former park keeper’s lodge in West Bank Park the morning after the fire. Photograph: YorkMix

Jane added:

Like many other people we are very shocked and deeply saddened by what has happened. The building was a link to the park’s famous past and an important landmark at the heart of our community.

This project, however, has always been about much more than bricks and mortar. We feel it is now more important than ever and with the support of local people we are determined to continue the campaign. To keep going we need your support.

Campaigners are asking for people to join them at a public meeting on Wednesday (November 16): details in the panel.

If you are unable to come to the meeting but would like more information or to get involved please email [email protected].