Saturday, 21 October 2017

Families lose campaign to revive children’s play area

A CAMPAIGN to have a play area in Sonning Common re-opened has failed.

A CAMPAIGN to have a play area in Sonning Common re-opened has failed.

The green in Pages Orchard has been closed for about 10 years after it became a meeting place for teenagers at night and attracted antisocial behaviour.

Residents of the street and neighbouring Ashford Avenue wanted to see it open again at weekends and during school holidays for young children to use.

A petition signed by 16 residents was presented to housing association Soha, which owns the site, but the request has been denied.

Soha omitted the idea from a consultation it carried out with residents in which it asked what they would like to see the area become.

In a letter sent to 150 homes, it said there was a preference for the green to be turned into a community garden. However, 63 per cent of respondents said they would not help with this project and 90 per cent declined to organise meetings or help with fund-raising.

In the letter, Chris Irons, Soha’s head of communications and resident involvement, said the housing association needed help from residents to take the project forward, adding: “These results mean that at this point no action is going to be taken.”

Anthony Horne, 45, a builder who lives in Ashford Avenue, led the campaign to re-open the play area so his son Charlie, eight, and other children could play outdoors away from cars in the street.

He said he was disappointed with Soha’s decision but claimed not everyone had been consulted.

“We’ve got plenty of support for this and there are parents who are willing to be keyholders but it hasn’t come to anything,” he said. “They said they were going to do a consultation with people in Pages Orchard and Ashford Avenue but a lot of residents I spoke to said they didn’t receive anything.”

Mr Horne said he would not return his consultation paper because he didn’t believe there had been explicit mention of the play area.

He proposed a two-week trial of the play area ahead of the school summer holidays.

“I’m so convinced it would work and would be a good thing,” he said. “It’s not a benefit for me but for all the kids in the estate. If there were a couple of issues I would be the first person to call Soha.

“It would cost a fortune to have a community garden but all they’ve got to do is give us the keys for two weeks to see what it’s like. All the parents are fully aware that their children are responsible and they would make sure the older kids were kept out.”

Mr Horne, who remembers using the play area while growing up, said re-opening it would have a positive effect on the children.

“When they grow up they could say, ‘I remember that little play area I used to play in’,” he said. “We just want to give something back to the kids.”

A Soha spokesman said it was the third year running it had carried out the consultation but it received only 20 responses, less than 15 per cent.

He said: “From the results, only 11 homes wanted this space to be a community garden and only seven said they would help in running the project.

“Eight homes said that they might be interested in maintaining this project with nine homes saying that they would consider being keyholders.

“A number of residents whose homes back on to the proposed community garden area also got in touch with Soha directly, saying they were not in favour of this project going ahead as they were worried about possible antisocial behaviour or noise issues.

“Having considered these results, Soha decided to not take any action.”

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