People came out in force at the three Sporting Hub ‘drop-in’ public consultations in February and March but Highworth Residents’ Group claimed the procedures were biased to secure a favourable reaction.
449 people attended the drop-ins, giving written 284 comments with 57% supporting the proposals and 43% against.
The 19 hours of public consultation drop-ins were held at Highworth Recreation Centre, Highworth Community Centre (Northview) and Highworth Town Council.
Geoff Halls (Chair of the Highworth Sporting Hub) commented: “It is great that so many people took the time and trouble to attend the drop in sessions. It was good to hear so many people’s opinions – for and against the proposals and to hear many constructive suggestions on how the plans could be improved. We must thoroughly consider all those ideas in our plans. All of the comments will be passed to the independent consultant being used to draw up the questionnaire that everyone in Highworth will receive in the post shortly”.
‘Drop-ins’ a great success
Vice Chair of the Sporting Hub Fred Van Eekeren said: “All the ‘drop-ins’ were a great success and we had a wide variety of views. I was very pleased to see how well everyone understood the plans and how their suggestions could improve the proposal. Only by getting as many residents as possible to have their say will we know what people really want for the future of sport and access to open areas in Highworth”.
What is being proposed at the Rec?
A flood-lit artificial grass pitch at the Recreation Centre, senior football pitch to moved to junior pavilion, new cricket pitch, junior football pavilion extended for storage, a viewing area for cricket, and a cafe/bar for residents and players, relocation of pitch and putt, more car parking, an informal 400m running track for athletics, and for public use, a 2.9km trim trail, for joggers, walkers and dog walkers. Trees relocated, and new trees planted with landscaping. There will also be the opportunity to comment on a proposal for an artificial grass pitch located on the Warneford School site.
All households will shortly receive a questionnaire to complete and return by freepost.
The results of the consultation will be made public and presented by independent consultant, Phil Back, to Swindon Borough Council and Highworth Town Council.
Highworth Residents Group critical reaction of Sporting Hub proposal
However Hugh Reader and Lorraine Floyd of The Highworth Residents Group have issued a critical statement about the way the consultation process has been carried out and say the media release from Stuart Henshaw is ‘is very misleading and is likely to misrepresent the true position regarding Highworth Residents, in relation to the proposal.
The list their concerns below:
1. The drop ins were not restricted to Highworth Residents, any claim that is made on Highworth Residents behalf is patently not valid. No requirement was made on behalf of the attendees to declare where they lived. People from as far as Pewsey, Cirencester and Oxford attended as well as more locally Swindon and Shrivenham;
2. Highworth Town Football Club, the main beneficiary of this proposal, flooded the drop-ins with Junior Footballers, of which around only 40% come from the town itself. This would have created a significant portion of the so called support for the proposal;
3. The picture of Warneford School pupils is misleading as Warneford School have an alternative proposal to the one that is being suggested by the Sporting Hub. Warneford have planning permission for an All Weather Pitch at Warneford School. The Highworth residents Group believe that a greater sporting benefit would be gained by Highworth and its school pupils by supporting this alternative but more substantive, option.
4. The drop-ins were not run in an objective, neutral manner. They were run by the proposers of the scheme, as no ‘neutral’ facilitators were willing to undertake the task. The surprise therefore is that even with that backdrop, ‘only’ 57% of the participants were ‘for and for with concerns’.
5. None of the proposers, Stuart Henshaw, Fred Van Eekeren or Geoff Halls live in Highworth.