Plans for a £60,000 skateboard, bmx and scooter park at Salt Way Field in Middleleaze could be turned down if objections by residents living near the site are supported by planning officers at Swindon Borough Council.
The project has been developed over the last two years with major input from young people living in West Swindon who have worked with Swindon parks department officers and councillors for the area.
Pictured at swindonlink.com in August 2012, showing off skatepark design options, from left, Nick Martin with Liam Dobson, Aaron Calver, and Dan Sharp, Olly Morton and Wendy Davies of Bendcrete Skateparks
The youngsters’ suggestions have been incorporated and modified through discussions with specialist contractors Bendcrete Skateparks and were presented at the West Swindon Locality Forum in July 2012. The plans were also displayed at West Swindon Library in the Link Centre in August 2012 where the young people and designers were on hand to discuss the proposal in advance of a planning application to build the facility.
However residents living in Spencer Close, The Prinnels on the other side of Tewkesbury Way which runs between Salt Way Field and the nearest housing have risen up to object to the idea of a skate park close to their homes.
They say they only learnt of the proposal when a letter arrived from the council’s planning department informing people living closest to the site of the application. 24 residents have registered objections citing a range of issues including:
• lack of consultation with residents most affected;
• the impact of noise on people living 50 metres away;
• the security implications arising from an open access, unsupervised facility, which could be used late into the night because of street lighting closely;
• worries associated with the close location to a pub/family restaurant;
• worries that the nearby subway between the open space and their houses will become a hang-out area.
Right, Spencer Close resident Arthur Beltrami holding up the Conservative councillors newsletter featuring Salt Way Field with fellow residents in the background on the site of the proposed skatepark, next to the mult-use games area and the Salt Way Centre
Residents’ spokesman Peter Corrie said his neighbours had been taken aback by the sudden news that the skatepark was to be situated at Salt Way Field. He said: "The residents are not fundamentally against a skateboard park but object to the location which is so clearly unsuitable.
"Being told that it could be built so close to people’s houses has been a great surprise. Nobody has been to our road to tell us about the plan, although we now understand that it has been discussed at various community meetings. We were also shocked to read councillor Nick Martin’s view in a Conservative Party newsletter that the nearest houses are 200 metres away when there are some just across the road."
In a press statement, the residents’ group accuse Coun Martin of ‘using his position of power to bully people into believing their views are ‘trivial’ if they are different to his. He needs to learn to listen to other people that elected him to his position.
They also state: ‘Alongside a photo of Nick in a Rambo style pose and a headline of “Nick’s Field of Dreams” Nick proclaimed that “the chosen location was 200 yards from any homes” and “he would personally be visiting residents to explain details that weren’t clear”’
Coun Martin responded by saying that the Salt Way Field had been discussed in public for over a year and it was very difficult to have a sensible discussion when invited to talk with one person and to be unexpectedly confronted by a roomful of residents.
"The project has been in the making for over two years when a group of young people from Lydiard Park Academy lobbied me about the council building a skatepark in West Swindon. I asked parks department officers to look at putting it at Salt Way Field where a multi-use games area sponsored by John Lewis opened in 2011. They agreed it would be a suitable place to locate a skate facility.
"Spencer Close is opposite it, on the other side of two thick hedges and Tewkesbury Way which masks any noise. My own back garden backs onto Tewkesbury Way and there is a constant drone of traffic.
"With three or four feature items the skate park is smaller than the one at Haydon Wick and much smaller to that at the Oasis. The young people have been very responsible in their discussions with the officers. Considering the speed at which things move, they’ve also been very patient.
"I acknowledge people are objecting, but there are some 9,000 people living in the Shaw ward, including many young people who have been involved with developing the skatepark idea and are looking forward to using it."
West Swindon Forum
Fellow West Swindon Forum member Coun Steve Wakefield, one of the Labour councillors representing the adjacent Toothill and Mannington ward on Swindon Council, said the skatepark had been discussed openly. "It’s wrong to personalise this issue. Nick raised the skatepark idea at the Forum at least 18 months ago and last summer young people made a very convincing case for one to be built. I know the councillors who were on the Forum before the 2012 ward boundary changes supported the skate and BMX facility, as do those elected in May 2012."
Coun Martin is a member of the council’s planning committee and said he would take advice from the Borough Solicitor as to whether he should participate in any decision regarding the application.
However planning officers have delegated powers to decide whether the application can go ahead without going before a committee, based on the information and evidence before them and the objections that have been lodged. The officers have called for a noise assessment to be made and asked the police to comment on the impact of a skatepark at Salt Way Fields.
In the August 2011 Link magazine (read online), skatepark proponent Aaron Colver, 12, said he was pleased that the dream of a skatepark in the West is coming closer. “I wrote to councillor Nick Martin over a year ago to say young people needed a place to use BMX bikes and skateboards and not much happened. Then we spoke at the West Swindon Forum meeting in July and people liked the idea. It’s really good that we’re involved in the designs and that the park is going to be built.”