May marks the tenth anniversary of a visit by Jonathon Porrit, one of Britain’s best known environmentalists, who in 2004 took time out as a speaker at the Swindon Festival of Literature to visit Shaw Forest Park, and he returns to speak at the festival on 15 May.
His support for an important developing green space close to the town centre gave encouragement to people defending the park after a small group of councillors suggested Swindon Town football club look at the West Swindon site as an alternative to the County Ground.
West Swindon residents reacted angrily when the news broke on 19 March 2004 and engaged in what was to be a short, sharp campaign to fight off the idea that the former landfill off Mead Way could become a sports, leisure village and retail park around a 23,000 stadium.
Apart from the uncertainty and concerns of disturbing an unregulated mid-20th Century tip, particularly the chance of finding asbestos from the railway works, people were incensed that the council’s promises about the green area would be broken.
From 1993 there had been three well attended community tree planting days to involve residents in the regeneration of the open space. Families and children attended in large numbers to plant trees which are now strong and healthy.
Protest marches were held and immense pressure was put on councillors to protect the park.
On 22 July that year, with cross party support, the full council agreed Shaw Forest Park should remain an open space for 99 years. Since then thousands more trees have been planted and landscaping work was completed.
It’s uncertain whether Jonathon can return to Shaw Forest on 15 May as he will be flying in from Malaysia on the morning of his talk about his new book – The World We Made – which imagines what people in 2050 will say about what we are doing to our planet.
See more about the 2004 battle for Shaw Forest:
Pictured above Jonathon Porritt at Shaw Forest in 2004. Left, Sparcells resident Alan Hayward who sparked the revolt of residents against the football club redevelopment idea