Monday, 21 October 2019

£250,000 plan to refurb play area accessible to all

A PLAY area in Benson could be upgraded at a cost of £250,000.

The parish council is backing the idea, which comes almost three years after a plan to create an adventure playground in the village was put on hold.

It has not made any decisions on what pieces of equipment would be included at the play area in Sunnyside but wants the facilities to be as accessible as possible to people with special requirements.

The council says residents should be consulted and that as much grant funding as possible should be sought.

In 2015 the council’s youth facilities working group asked villagers via a questionnaire what facilities for young people they would like to see.

More than 300 people responded. Many said Benson youth hall and scout hut should be rebuilt and others also wanted the village playgrounds to be refurbished.

The most popular choices for the new facilities were an adventure recreation area with a zip wire and a sports centre.

Five companies were given the chance to come up with ideas for a £150,000 adventure playground but then the whole idea was halted when the council said its priority was extending the parish hall.

The youth facilities working group didn’t meet again but was reinstated in May this year. A parish council meeting last week heard that the new proposal would mean consulting the community again but some members were against this idea.

Councillor Rob Jordan said: “What is the point of consulting the parishioners? If they say we want a red one or blue one and one with three legs then we have to go back and get requotes.” Councillor Michael Winton agreed saying: “If you start going down this road it’s going to take months getting new prices, speaking to all these suppliers and going to exhibitions and schools, which we have already done. I’m not prepared to go down that road again.”

Councillor Tom Stevenson suggested using a Saturday morning to have the plans on display but Cllr Winton said this, too, had already been done.

Members voted in favour of carrying out public consultation by four votes to two. Meanwhile, the parish hall extension project has been scaled back yet again.

The £700,000 scheme was granted planning permission in 2017 but was put on hold while plans for a new community building in the village were being agreed.

Cala Homes plans to include the building in the second phase of its 241-home development north of Littleworth Road after negotiations with the council.

The parish hall was to have a ground floor extension and a roof extension to enable the parish office to move from the first floor, where the conference room was to be enlarged. The entrance hall was to be extended, the toilets and kitchen refurbished and solar panels fitted.

The post office would move to the hall from the sports pavilion.

Council chairman Bill Pattison told the meeting: “There’s certainly aspects of it that may not be so necessary now — mostly the first floor. When the project started there wasn’t a new community building in the offing.”

The project has been discussed for several years and revised a number of times.

At the annual parish meeting in April, resident Ian Leppard demanded to know how much has been spent on the project to extend the hall. Figures in the council’s finance report revealed £18,166 had been spent on professional fees in the last financial year.

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