Residents rally in bid to save playing fields
5:30am Saturday 29th March 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
RESIDENTS have expressed satisfaction at what appears to be political unity among local politicians over the future of the Croft Playing Fields.
The public space, in Old Town, is currently the subject of several council proposals, raising concerns they may be closed off to the public, or worse, built upon.
They have been included as part of the Croft Leisure Centre, about which discussions are currently being carried out on a long term lease.
A consultation will consider disposing of the fields, along with land in Dorcan, to another owner, potentially closing them off to the public.
The Pipers Area Residents’ Association is concerned there are not enough safeguards in place to keep the fields in public use but have been able to secure a consensus from ward councillors of both parties and the local MP.
Old Town councillors Rod Bluh, Brian Mattock (Conservative) and Nadine Watts (Labour) have pledged to do what they can to keep the land available to the public and request the council does what it can to prevent any development of the land. Swindon South MP Robert Buckland has suggested the group apply for the Croft Playing Fields to become a community asset.
PARA chairman Colin Doubleday said: “This is a very important piece of land to the community and it is vital it remains an open space which everyone can use.
“Many residents, including the residents’ association have stated concerns that either of the two competing consultation plans for the area could change things dramatically.
“The fields are covered by a covenant regarding usage and provide formal and informal access to allow team sports, but also picnics, walks and space for children to play.
“By including the fields in the leisure centre lease there is no specific protection to ensure that the fields would not be built upon. By including the fields in a management contract focused at schools there is potential for the area to be fenced in and public access removed.
If the playing fields were designated as a formal Community Asset, then local residents would have the first say on whether they wanted to purchase the land.
Mr Buckland said: “The land is hugely important to the people of Old Town and I have suggested they apply to make it a community asset, which would demonstrate the place it has in residents’ hearts.”
A public meeting has been arranged for next Wednesday where residents can find out the latest information on the consultations. The meeting takes place at 8pm on April 2 at the Croft Sports Centre. To find out more on the consultation visit www.swindon.gov.uk/cd/cd-consultations.