Battle continues over skate park

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HDC’s planning committee meeting set for April 16 has now been put back, yet again, by at least another month to allow [Steyning] Parish Council time to reconsider its options as its plans for a skatepark on the Memorial Playing Field continue to run into ever–deeper problems .

As these problems continue to mount the Parish Council has been desperately suggesting ever less-appropriate solutions.

In a belated and ill-considered attempt to meet its obligations to the disabled under the Equalities Act, which it had hitherto neglected completely, the Parish Council has amended its application and now, incredibly, it seeks to put an ancillary car park in this highly protected landscape – something which is illegal because of the recent village green designation. Unsurprisingly, HDC’s Landscape Officer has objected to this .

The Landscape Officer also objects to the highly insensitive proposed spoil ramparts surrounding the skatepark which he agrees with the Friends were misleadingly portrayed in the Parish Council’s visualisations. The Friends’ visualisations show the true and highly inappropriate nature of what is proposed by the Parish Council. Both the police and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have also supported the Friends’ objections to these badly designed ramparts.

The police have also confirmed what the Friends have been telling the Parish Council since it was installed and what the Parish Council has always refused to acknowledge; that the cctv system installed at significant public expense just a year ago was severely under-specified and so is not fit for purpose. The Parish Council now plans a significant upgrade at yet more expense.

The Parish Council has also announced that it will open up the Cricket Club changing rooms for the general public to use the lavatory facilities – whilst failing to describe how this will be possible from either a child protection or a security point of view. The Cricket Club has not even been consulted and has lodged a planning objection.

In the face of these objections the application is likely to be refused permission unless the scheme is significantly modified again.

If the landscape officer’s recommendations are incorporated into any new design the Parish Council will then run into further difficulties with continuing inability to meet the legitimate needs of the disabled, and with renewed objections from Sport England because of the adverse impact on the adjacent football pitch and from RoSPA over mud and leaves ending up in the facility and with more unacceptable clutter in the landscape associated with the upgraded cctv system.

Noise nuisance will also continue to be an insurmountable problem with any design, now it is accepted that the bunding intended to attenuate the noise fails to achieve anything.

The scheme will continue to be opposed vigorously by the Friends of Memorial Playing Field and they have given notice to the Parish Council that the Friends will be asking the courts to intervene using judicial review as well as the powerful legislation protecting village greens and noise abatement legislation.

Meanwhile the Friends’ plans for an alternative scheme adjacent to the Leisure Centre, which has none of these problems and many advantages, continues to make good headway.

Paul Campbell

Vice-Chair Friends of Memorial Playing Field

Charlton Street, Steyning