I am very saddened to see Steyning Parish Council has been forced to withdraw its plans for a skate park on the Memorial Playing Field, owing to issues regarding the registration of the site as a village green by the scheme’s opponents.
It was registered on behalf of only those residents living immediately adjacent, allowing the concerns of a few to override those of the majority of local people. It seems very odd that such a registration is even possible.
This is quite the opposite of what I see as the intention of the village green legislation, which is to preserve access for the entire community for leisure activities, rather than to prevent such community facilities being provided owing to a small number of local objectors.
When the village green was registered (reported in the Herald, February 28, 2013), Mr Campbell, of the Friends of the Memorial Playing Field anti- skate-park pressure group, claimed the parish council wanted to ‘destroy the area with a noisy and monstrous skate park’.
He said: “They want to create an enormous, festering eyesore on a landscape which makes the area so special. This is a beautiful and tranquil area.”
He asked the committee to grant the village green status and ‘make this a happy and historic day for the people of Steyning’.
Such hyperbole is entirely untrue, as has been pointed out many times. It is a scruffy corner of what is already a noisy and busy field and the skate park would hardly be visible as it was to be let into the ground and carefully landscaped. The chosen location currently has an untidy expanse of tarmac, so I believe it would actually look better. As for being a happy and historic day for the people of Steyning, I suspect Mr Campbell and his small band are the only happy people, and for all the wrong reasons.
West Sussex county councillors on the rights of way committee pointed out that the granting of village green status was purely an issue of access and rights of way, based on which most of them saw no problem granting the application.
Mr Campbell’s ranting about the skate park was irrelevant, but councillor Derek Whittington was perceptive enough to see what was going on and pointed out ‘the speaker is obviously unaware that the young people who may wish to use the skate park have just as much right to enjoy themselves’.
I believe he abstained from the vote and it is a shame that the others present did not fully appreciate Mr Campbell’s motives and intentions. I am concerned that if the village green legislation is to be applied to the letter (and I am sure Mr Campbell knows every letter) then many of the activities normally carried out on the MPF may also prove to be illegal and thus be challenged by the FoMPF group, and that therefore ‘village green’ may not be the best status for this particular open space.
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