A PLANNING application is to be submitted for a new skate park in Henley despite concerns that it would be almost twice the size of the existing facility.
The move by the town council led to clashes between Colin Brathwaite, chairman of the Henley Skate Park Initiative, and Councillor Sam Evans, who was accused of “pointless nit-picking”.
The initiative has chosen Maverick Industries to design a new £250,000 skate park at Makins Recreation Ground, which is owned by the council.
Mr Brathwaite said the planners at South Oxfordshire District Council would only be interested in the footprint and depth of the site rather than the features of the skate park, adding: “These things really are integrated into the landscape and not an eyesore or a concrete monstrosity.”
The new facility would be 850 sq m compared with the current one, which is 500 sq m and users says is dated, noisy and unsuitable. The additional space would come from using the land between the existing skate park and the scout hut car park.
Councillor David Silvester said this land was not used at the moment.
Councillor Kellie Hinton said: “To make it a bit bigger would be better for the people who use it. Some of the reasons it’s not used now is that it’s the wrong size and shape.”
But Cllr Evans said: “What would happen if we increased by 40 per cent each of the facilities that we provide for the young people of the town? It’s our responsibility to look after everybody.
“At no point have we been given the option to discuss replacing the skate park, which is our responsibility.
“There’s been a constant push to have it increased to nearly double the size. If you stuck to the same size these issues wouldn’t be there.
“If that size doesn’t work then why have you spent the last three years telling us just how many people make use of it and how brilliant it is? That’s a complete contradiction.”
Mr Brathwaite responded: “Every time we have a meeting, you come out with a reason why we shouldn’t have this project. Yet you say you have a responsibility to look after everyone in this town.
“Exactly what is your problem with this project?” Cllr Evans replied: “If you came to us with plans for the same area coverage in Makins I would happily vote it through. It’s doubling the size of it that’s my problem.”
Mr Brathwaite said: “Look around the town at young people and show me a person who doesn’t own a scooter, bike, skateboard or roller blades — I think you will be hard pushed.
“We want to increase the size of the facility in order to cater for the demand.”
Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak, a member of the skate park working group, said the council wouldn’t have offered Henley Hockey Club a three-quarter length pitch when it was built at Jubilee Park.
“What’s the real difference?” he said. “It’s a bit more concrete down towards the car park so we’re not eating into any green space.
“When we put in the existing skate park 13 years ago it was deemed to be the right size but skateboarding has changed.”
Councillor Joan Bland recommended setting up a meeting with the district council before the planning application was submitted.
Cllr Hinton said: “It’s starting to feel that after three years in March since these guys came to this meeting that you resolve one problem and then are just nit-picking the next problem.
“It’s getting borderline comical and actually disrespectful and rude to the people who have worked really hard. We want to support the youth of Henley and actions speak louder than words.”
Cllr Bland said: “We can’t keep putting concrete in Henley. If we keep on covering up green space there will be nowhere to plant a tree.”
The committee agreed to submit a planning application and for the initiative to seek pre-planning advice from the district council. The council will also apply for an exemption so that it can discuss its own planning application.
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