Three parks volunteers who helped to secure £2m in lottery funding have stepped down following controversy over plans to chop down a giant redwood tree.
Chairperson Neil Mooney, secretary Gayle Knight and treasurer Hazel Wilkinson will not be seeking re-election onto the Friends of Rhyddings Park committee.
Their decision follows a public campaign to save a giant redwood ‘sequoia’ which was set to be cut down as part of the multi million pound redevelopment of the Oswaldtwistle park.
Gayle Knight said that they had been left in an ‘impossible position’ after being told that if the tree was not cut down it could lead to the funding being withdrawn.
The tree has now been given a reprieve - and it has been confirmed that the funding Heritage Lottery that the funding will not be affected.
Speaking at a meeting of the town’s area forum, Gayle Knight said: “Neil and I raised the issue of the tree in the park with Newground and we were told it was integral to the plans.
“We had been encouraged to believe that Heritage Lottery could withdraw the funding at any time.
“At no point until today had we been told otherwise.
“It leaves us, the public face of the project in an impossible position. We will be stepping down for others to take the reins.”
Campaigners are awaiting the outcome of a council report after a petition containing more than 2,000 signatures to save the tree was handed to Hyndburn council.
Oswaldtwistle councillor Peter Britcliffe said he was ‘gutted’ by their decision to step down.
He said: “This is a major development, to get £2 million into the park is fantastic. I think we’ve got to go forward together on this.”
Peter Jordan, Newground Together’s executive director, said: “We are delighted that funding has been secured to revitalise this park and to enhance its heritage and community aspects.
“This is due to the hard work of the many people and organisations involved in developing this project.
“The plans for Rhyddings Park have been meticulously developed over a number of years to produce the best possible result for the people of Oswaldtwistle.
“While we have an approved design, we sought clarity from the Heritage Lottery Fund and they confirmed that if the tree was to be retained it would not affect the approved purposes of the application and in their view would not jeopardise their offer of funding.”
Last week council leader Miles Parkinson said he hoped the project could be redesigned and called for an open council debate before any future action is taken.