Sunday, 16 January 2022

Concern at lack of planning for new recreation ground

THE clerk of Sonning Common Parish Council is concerned about the lack of a formal plan for the village’s new recreation ground. 

Memorial Park, off Reades Lane, is due to be handed over to the council by contractors Blakedown Sport & Play this month. 

However, Philip Collings said no clear decisions had been made about what comes next. 

In May, almost 700 residents responded to a survey  about what sports and types of equipment they wanted to be available but the results have not been discussed. 

Speaking at a council meeting, Mr Collings said: “We are at a point of concern as it’s not clear what we’re doing. We haven’t got a unanimous view about what comes next. There isn’t even a shred of a plan.

“When this was looked at by Sports England they discussed it as a clear-cut recreation ground where we’re putting in a multiple use games area and taking it over as it is with the play area to come.

“But some ideas are to build a new community centre and a gymnasium. There are no plans or formal documents about what is going on there.” 

He added that some ideas may not be financially viable when the running costs of the facility were factored in as well.

Mr Collings said: “We’ve got to pay £10,000 a year getting bins emptied etc.

“We may be able to get money from renting the games area and that might produce five or six thousand pounds a year.

“We have to think about the overall running cost for doing things like organising events and  employing people to run activities, which is very different in the remit of a council.

“You need and you should put some time aside to decide where on the spectrum the council needs to be and go from there.

“More cost is not a popular thing in this financial crisis.” 

The council received a £100,000 grant from the Tarmac Landfill Communities Fund for the playground which will be installed by contractor Kompan, of Milton Keynes. 

Councillor John Stoves suggested the recreation ground should only include the play area and games area for now.

He said: “We should keep things to a minimum and build on them in the future because if we start something and we can’t afford to finish it, it’s difficult. I think we should tread very carefully.”  Councillor Diana Pearman, who chaired the council’s recreation ground working party, said: “There is still a number of things that need to be completed before we open next spring and that should be our main concern at the moment.” 

The council agreed that its parks and recreation committee should discuss plans for the recreation ground and bring some ideas to next month’s council meeting. 

Meanwhile, the council is to seek a capital grant to get lighting on the field instead of outdoor gym equipment. 

Deputy clerk Ros Varnes said that South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, would need a planning application for gym equipment as it was a permanent fixture and applying for the lighting grant made more sense.

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