Chippenham Folk Festival threat
The town’s folk festival could be in jeopardy if proposals to site a skatepark at Island Park are approved, say organisers.
Festival boss Bob Berry is calling on festival supporters to write to Wiltshire Council to show their opposition to the plans for the land, the home of the festival for 41 years.
But Wiltshire councillor Desna Allen, who chairs the skatepark task group, claims that the festival and a skate park on the site, in Monkton Park between the wall of Wilkinsons and the River Avon, can co-exist.
Mr Berry said: “The setting is absolutely special. It is the beating heart of the festival. “It seems wrong to waste such a beautiful green space in the middle of Chippenham just for a few skaters.
“We’re not against a skatepark in any way but not right in the middle of where we run the folk festival.
“We were the first to use that land, back in 1974 when we asked Nestlé for permission to clear nettles away so we could use it for the festival.
“They are telling us it could be boarded over, but there is no way you could put a 90 foot marquee on top of a skatepark, and it would create bad feeling between the youngsters and the festival.
“They are only giving one choice of location so it is not much of a consultation.”
Supporters voted overwhelmingly to oppose the plans at Sunday’s annual festival meeting, and festival fans from around the country and abroad have been writing to Wiltshire Council, voicing their objections.
One letter of objection to the council, from a festival fan based in Cambridge, described the skatepark as a harebrained scheme.
It said: “Surely your desire to appease the demands of young men cannot outweigh the interests of the rest of society? Just the noise of the skateboards will be awful.”
“Not only that but you will totally undermine the folk festival and the beautiful riverside location.”
Another letter, from a festival-goer in North Bristol, said: “I like coming to Chippenham, I cannot see the skate park plonked in the centre of Island Park – because it was the least difficult spot – as a runner.
“It would crush the festival. Take its heart out.”
Mr Berry said the festival brings in at least £1 million to the town each year, in terms of the extra trade and business from the thousands of visitors it attracts, and losing it would be a blow to the local economy.
Coun Allen, who also chairs the local area board, said: “We have investigated 22 sites in Chippenham and this is the only site which matches the strict criteria.
“The skate park has to be as small a noise nuisance as possible, zero decibels above background noise in fact. If the park is taken forward it will be built so it can be adapted for the festival, and skaters would be aware they couldn’t use it for certain days of the year.”
The councillor added that the proposals will be discussed at a public meeting at Monkton Park council offices on November 26, from 7pm, with information about the various sites.
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