There is growing cross-party consensus about a community asset at risk in the current Swindon Borough Council Leisure Facilities consultation, writes Colin Doubleday, Chair of the Pipers Area Residents Association, in advance of a public meeting about the site on Wednesday 2 April (see below).
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland and Old Town ward councillors Rod Bluh, Brian Mattock and Nadine Watts each support a statement that the Croft Playing fields should remain as open access for public usage protected against future built development.
Croft Playing Fields have been enjoyed by people across Swindon, including local residents, since 1956. The fields are covered by a covenant regarding usage and provide formal and informal access to allow team sports, but also picnics, walks and space for children to play.
Many residents including Pipers Area Residents Association [PaRa] have stated concerns that either of the two competing consultation plans for the area could change things dramatically. By including the fields in the Leisure Centre lease there is no specific protection to ensure that the fields would not be built upon. By including the fields in a management contract focused at schools there is potential for the area to be fenced in and public access removed.
As a protection, Robert Buckland has suggested that these fields could be designated as a formal Community Asset.
Additionally politicians have supported concerns that a residential road providing sole vehicular access to the Croft is included in the current lease proposals. SBC Officers now indicate informally that this road, Marlborough Lane, can be removed from contracts, but further work is required to remove it from the official lease proposals.
Many who know and enjoy the Croft want to protect it for current and future generations. As such, great care is expected of SBC in the drafting of any lease contracts. In the meantime, PaRa suggest that SBC suspend the fields from the current consultations until the full implications of these are clear.
We believe the best way to approach this is in a public meeting at which these current proposals can be presented and any questions discussed.
We are pleased that our local politicians support plans to secure this open space for future generations and hope that they will also provide a public meeting to discuss this to ensure the best outcome for all.
Rod Bluh, Nadine Watts, Jim Grant & Robert Buckland have all publicly supported the statements below:
A. We support the spirit and purpose of the original gift of Croft playing fields to the local community for the enjoyment and benefit of the community. As such we request that this council administration and all future administrations defend against any permission to build or develop on this site and to include in any lease or management agreement clauses that actively mitigate against any future built development of this site or any attempt to control open usage. We will fight to protect this land for the community.
B. Marlborough Lane is used by 12 direct stakeholders on a daily basis (7 homes and 5 businesses) and a wide range of local community on a regular basis. The need of these stakeholders is equal, historical and unavoidable, hence as such it is unusual and unnatural to pass control to one stakeholder in primacy through the actions of a lease, management agreement or other mechanism.?We request that the council continues to manage and control the unadopted section of Marlborough Lane directly working in the balanced and equal interests of all stakeholders.
Public meeting about future of Croft Playing Fields Swindon
Swindon Council is offering Croft Sports Centre on a 99 year lease to management companies or not-for-profit-organisations as part of its programme to outsource its leisure and golf assets.
However because the site are former school playing fields the consent of the Secretary of State for Education is required. An additional statutory consultation is being run by the council which closes on 15 April.
Public Meeting on Wednesday 2 April, 8pm to 9.30pm, Croft Sports Centre
Residents have been asking what the proposed disposal of the Croft public playing fields means and are also
concerned by the current council proposal which leaves all of the Croft leisure facilities open to a 3 year change
of use clause.
This means leisure facilities only need be kept open for 3 years before the operator could submit alternative plans for the site.
Meeting organiser councillor Nadine Watts says answers need to be given to these questions:
• Why must Croft playing fields be transferred to the new operator of the Croft Centre?
• How will access to all those who currently use the playing fields be guaranteed once the Croft Centre is
transferred out of local Council control?
• What could happen to the playing fields after the 3 year period for continued leisure use of Croft Centre
All are invited to the meeting