Meeting ‘ignores’ Croft Fields protest
CAMPAIGNERS looking to safeguard the future of Croft Playing Fields feel let-down that the council didn’t address their concerns during a meeting called to debate the issue.
Last month, the council’s cabinet approved the lease transfer of their leisure facilities to Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), who run the Oasis Leisure Centre, while Twigmarket will take over Broome Manor and Highworth golf clubs.
The proposals, which still need to be approved by full council, aim to save the body £1.4m a year.
While a consultation was ongoing regarding the transfer, residents started a petition, which received 1,650 signatures calling for Croft Playing Fields, it’s car park and Marlborough Lane to be taken out of the deal.
On Thursday, the council, which had subsequently removed Marlborough Lane from the transfer, held an extraordinary meeting to debate the residents’ concerns. Minutes before it started an amendment calling for the Croft matters to be discussed at full council was added to the agenda.
Councillors voted in favour of the amendment despite some heated debate between the Conservative administration and the opposition.
Linda Kasmaty, who signed the petition and was in the public gallery at the Civic Offices meeting, said: “It was extremely disappointing. We were supposed to be having a debate on the matter but that didn’t really happen.
“I feel like crying as we have just been ignored.”
The petition was launched to ensure the Croft area remained an open public space, free from any potential development such as homes being built on the land.
“I think we did listen as one of the things that came out early on was Marlborough Lane and we have taken that out,” said Coun Keith Williams (Con, Shaw), leisure services cabinet member.
“Removing the car park and the playing fields would jeopardise the business model.”
As part of the transfer, the leisure services will retain a 10-year keep open clause as part of a 25-year lease with GLL.
Coun Williams said that the full leisure transfer made perfect sense describing GLL as a market leader with greater resources than the council.
“What we have here is a petition raised during an election period without the full facts available and hopefully what has been heard here tonight will give you some assurance,” he said.
“This is an excellent result for Swindon.”
Not all in the council chamber backed the amendment.
Coun Kevin Small (Lab, Mannington and Western) said: “I challenge you to ignore the amendment, carry on with the debate and if you don’t agree with what is being said vote it down.”
Coun Bob Wright (Lab, central) said: “On this occasion you have decided not to listen to the local voices and that must perplex them.”
Some of those who’d campaigned for the fields and car park to be removed from the lease packed into the chamber’s public gallery with banners reading ‘Croft Fields belong to all of us’ and ‘1,650 say no’.
The campaigners are still fully committed to their cause despite the setback.
The full council meeting where the proposal for the leisure options transfer will be debated in the chamber will take place at 7pm on July 17.
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