Survey of children has no part in site selection for Swindon skatepark
5:30am Wednesday 15th January 2014 in By Dominic Gilbert
A DEBATE on where to create a new £60,000 skate park in West Swindon has settled on a site in Rivermead after discounting part of a public consultation.
Proposals to locate the park at Saltway fields stalled in the face of local opposition, and three potential sites were put to public consultation between November 12 and December 15.
But 800 replies to the consultation were discounted after it was decided the views of children in West Swindon should not be included.
Of 380 replies to the online survey, 55 per cent favoured the site behind the Spectrum building at Rivermead.
But after 800 cards were returned from Year 6 children at schools in West Swindon, it was found 53 per cent of those preferred a park at Shaw Ridge. Combined survey results then left the highest number of votes, 43 per cent, in favour of the Shaw Ridge site.
Following comments from residents and skaters, councillors decided to discount the opinions of the schoolchildren.
Keith Williams, (Con, Shaw), said: “We should not be looking at the children’s results. If you ask the parents of the same children what their opinions would be, they would say the opposite.
“Children do not always know what they really want, and I think building a skate park on top of a hill where there are already problems is possibly not the best idea.
“The skating community were spoken to and their preferred site was Rivermead. We should be asking skaters, not children.”
Kevin Fisher, chairman of the Shaw Residents Association, said: “This is not a fair reflection of the survey. The park just needs to be built and this has been going on for way too long.”
Others defended the choices of 11-year-olds in West Swindon.
Nick Martin, (Con, Shaw), said: “I have got a lot of respect for young people and do not like patronising them. The idea we should not talk to the people who would be the users of this park is bizarre. The adults are always going to say they don’t want it in their back yard.”
Michael Dickinson, (Con, Lydiard and Freshbrook), said: “If we do not consult with the users we are going to end up with an expensive white elephant. We would have a very nice skateboard park but no users.”
Skaters in the area said they have no firm preference over the location, as long as it is built, and have welcomed the decision.
Matthew Drever, 29, said: “It is great that this is finally happening. It has been a long time coming to get a skate park in West Swindon. As long as they get the flooding issue sorted, then Rivermead will be a good place for it. As it is going to be built on a flood plain, that needs to be addressed.
“Some of the older kids can cause issues, but the people using the park will look after the area because they will not want it ruined. The older skaters will look after the younger ones, but it is all about getting the right people there.”
The site at Rivermead will be subject to testing before being confirmed officially in March.
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