REPLACEMENT OBSERVATION PLATFORM
Immediately after the Tower fire in 2017, there was a community and Borough Council desire to replace the iconic structure. The immediately ‘obvious’ solution was to reuse the unaffected metal leg bases and either replicate the original design or modify it somewhat, but using metal rather than wood to avoid the risk of it being burnt down again.
However, because the raised Observation Area mound that the original Tower stood on was originally a waste tip from the WW2 munitions factory, it would not be possible to use the existing leg bases because of the additional weight of a ‘steel replacement Tower’. Similarly, digging foundations for a new structure would also not be acceptable. Consequently, it was concluded that a new Tower would have to be constructed elsewhere on the site.
Unfortunately, construction elsewhere on site would be very difficult because of the likely stability problem from construction on a thick layer of peat. Also, construction access would be a major problem for equipment and materials on the fairly narrow site paths that are not constructed to support large weights. The projected cost of an initial design was likely to be at least £1.2M and even that did not fully satisfy the requirement for disabled access. The overall long timescales, aggravated by interruptions to progress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, meant that the hoped-for WREN grant aid to support the project lapsed. Faced with an increasing potential cost, WBC decided that the construction of a replacement Tower was no longer economically viable.
The community, both locally and beyond, have shown the high regard in which they hold Risley Moss. In the early 1990s, they worked together to prevent the closure of the reserve, and now they have shown solidarity in helping raise over £12,000 which RIMAG have ring fenced and are managing until the Council can use it for the replacment structure.
This sum was raised through generous donations from local organisations including: Spectrum Striders, Friends of Birchwood Forest Park, sponsored participants in the Three Peaks Challenge, Emma Wood and the Elf Hunt Crew, ASDA Community Award, community fund raising through Go Fund Me, the management team at Birchwood Shopping Centre, and a range of local school and uniformed youth groups. In addition, there were major contributions from the general public supporting RIMAG fundraising activities.
Because the Tower Observation Area has very good over-views of the mossland, RIMAG has been pressing throughout for it to be made fully usable by the public. Although it would not be possible to build a new ‘Tower’ there, it now seems possible that a lower cost, lower level block-based structure can be built without the need for excavation. RIMAG is delighted that a detailed plan to achieve this objective is now being considered with the hope of having the work completed to enable the area to be fully re-opened in Spring 2022.
Dr Paul Speake, RIMAG Chairman