Pocket Park on The Field
Pocket Park on The Field
Friends of The Field Community Association was set up nearly 20 years ago and in that time all the political parties have been extremely supportive of our campaign to protect the 8 acres of open space that was the former Civil Service Playing Fields in Freemantle/Shirley area, and open it up for local people to use.
The land was acquired by the council in 2012 and half a million pounds was invested in the site by SCC. Since then it has been enjoyed by families and dog walkers. Benches and bins have been supplied. Testlands have run sports events on the field and of course St Marks School have used the site. Three really successful huge free community festivals have also been run in years past.
Earlier this month the council gave planning permission for a new all through St Marks School to be built, with the former civil service sports ground to be incorporated into the site as playing fields.
FOTF support the new school. We recognise it will bring challenges with regards to
congestion and parking but we understand that there are no other sites for a new secondary school. So we want it to work, and want the new school to be a great success and neighbour for the local community.
But.... we don't want the Community to lose open access to The Field entirely.
Over the years councillors have been very clear that the field should be for BOTH schools AND the community. Indeed 10 years ago there was a plan to relocate Regents Park School to the site and our MP, Alan Whitehead, campaigned extensively for the community not to be left out if that were to happen.
We would like the council to provide a Pocket Park alongside the new school playing fields.
The best place would be along the Malmesbury Place side. A strip of land could be accommodated.
This was discussed at the recent planning panel. Cllr Shields and Cllr Leggett spoke
supportively. As did the Chairman of the panel Cllr Savage.
But the job of the panel was to judge the application in front of them and not to create policy.
That is the job of Full Council and the job of the Administration. Hence our deputation in Feb. Some reasons have been suggested in the past as to why it’s not possible.
Let us address these...
- There isn't space.
There is plenty of space for this. Indeed during the recent planning consultation architects working on behalf of the council said to residents that they were just filling the space on the plans with extra things as they had run out of sports pitches to put there.- it’s not legal, not allowed under planning rules or not possible under the terms of the council's acquisition.
It is allowed. We have copies of detailed correspondence with Sarita Riley of the council's legal team making it very clear. It’s designated as playing fields and this explicitly in the legislation says that includes local authority parkland.
- there would be a safeguarding issue.
No, we would expect a pocket park to be separately fenced off from the school playing fields.
The park could be used by both the school and non school Children of course.
- we can't have dogs making a mess on playing fields that the school children will use.
A pocket park would be separate to the schools playing fields, so this would not be an issue.
- the developers won't let us.
The developers work for you. You are paying the bills and you set the policy.
- there will be a community access agreement so a pocket park isn't needed.
All schools have community access agreements whereby they allow clubs to use their facilities out of hours. This isn't the same as open access to the field. It means no play park, no space for dog walkers. It means local people would most likely have to pay to use facilities and most likely be part of a sports club. There is very little open space close by for families. We have more and more flats being built and houses split up into HMOs and no space for the children. Local people need a place to relax and play.
What we are calling for is a commitment from the council for a small park, with facilities for the community such as a play park, benches, picnic benches, bins, the necessary fencing, maybe a dog agility course for the dog walkers. It’s an ideal time for the council to make this commitment.
Honour the two decades of promises made in this chamber and on thousands of doorsteps, the hundreds of hours residents and councillors have spent drawing up technical, architectural and business plans, and consulting on ideas, meetings with MPs, Mayors, MEPs, Sport England, local and national TV, Radio and Newspapers, partnering talks with local sports and community groups, and many Community and School consultations. Make this a win-win for The Community and the new school. We care and trust you do too.
Friends of The Field Community Association.