Saturday, 21 July 2018

Dispute over emergency access to new skate park

SONNING Common Parish Council and Rotherfield United Football Club are at loggerheads over the new skate

SONNING Common Parish Council and Rotherfield United Football Club are at loggerheads over the new skate park.

The £100,000 facility, which opened in May, is in a corner of Bishopswood sports ground, which is owned by the football club.

The council and club disagree on arrangements for an ambulance to access the site in case of an  emergency.

In their original agreement for the transfer of ownership of the skate park land from the club to the council, there was a condition that the club had a legal obligation to provide emergency access.

The only access point is via the entrance in Gallowstree Road.

Currently the ground is protected by a one padlock and three combination locks on the gates.

The council asked for the padlock to be swapped for another combination lock to ensure as swift access as possible if there was an accident at the skate park. This was refused by the club which said there would then not be “robust” protection against travellers entering the field.

At a council meeting on Monday, chairman Douglas Kedge called the club’s attitude “nonsense” and said the situation was a “disgrace”.

Councillor Tom Fort called it a “public relations catastrophe”. He added: “This will provoke a response from the village’s parents and those parents of children who play at the skate park. This could result in injury not being treated when it should be.”

Councillor Leigh Rawlings said: “They’re worried about damage to their turf and insurance issues but I think they [the insurers] might have something to say about the financial costs if they are in breach through negligence.”

Councillor Barrie Greenwood said: “Because of the club’s stance nobody is a winner and everybody could be a loser.” David Hamer, community liaison officer at South Central Ambulance Service, has written to the council expressing support for its stance.

He said: “My concern comes if and when someone is using the skate park or vicinity has a life-threatening incident, such as a sudden cardiac arrest, or suffers a traumatic incident that requires an ambulance to get to the skate park quickly.”

He wenr on to say that combinations locks would be in both parties’ interests due to ease of opening and for resecuring the site.

The two sides are also in dispute over the original agreement on the transfer of the land which was agreed in 2012 when Cllr Kedge met then club chairman Andy Davies following a donation of £7,000 by the council.

The skate park is about 50sqm larger than originally planned, so the club wants to charge the council £2,000 per year in rent for the additional land.

But parish clerk Philip Collings says he has calculated that the cost of buying the extra land in line with the original price would be about £150.

Cllr Fort said the extra land was no use to the club and there was no justification for paying rent for it.

In a statement, the club said the skate park was built in the wrong place and significantly encroached on its land. 

It continued: “The council has drawn up revised plans but the club has yet to accept them based on the fact that there has been no formal offer and that they do not actually represent what exists at the park.

“According to conversations we have had with the emergency services, they are not insisting that the club changes the locks.”

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