Fears for fields after lease plan proceeds

This Is Wiltshire: Coun Nadine Watts front, right, with protesters at the Civic Offices Coun Nadine Watts front, right, with protesters at the Civic Offices

RESIDENTS who live near the Croft Fields have expressed disappointment that the fields are to be leased in spite of a strong campaign against it.

A last ditch attempt was made to have the fields removed from the proposed leisure lease programme, but the move, which will see all of the town’s leisure and golf facilities leased to private companies, went ahead unchanged.

At a council meeting on Thursday night it was agreed that all the leisure facilities will be run by Greenwich Leisure Limited, while the golf facilities will go to Twigmarket.

The council says the move is vital to save £1.4 million a year in subsidies and will attract millions of pounds in investment.

The Labour Group put forward an amendment to have the Croft Fields and car park, the golf facilities and the Haydon Centre removed, but it failed.

Throughout the debate there were calls for clauses to be inserted to offer guarantees to protect the future use of space by the public.

Colin Doubleday, of the Piper’s Area Residents’ Association, said: “We are very disappointed they will not put in clauses to protect the usage and access to the fields and car parks. There could be huge implications if parking was to be charged for or if access to the Croft was restricted.

“That space has many uses and not just for organised team sports.

“There also seems no justification for taking a company at their word.”

Councillor Jim Robbins (Lab, Mannington and Western) says it is important the details of any final lease are seen by members before anything is signed.

He said: “For me there are a lot of questions which still need answering. The officers are still negotiating on the final details so I think it is important we see these and I am keen for them to come to council before anything is signed.

“The council should still have a say on key aspects such as the access. If there is a good reason to put up a fence then fair enough but we need to see it.

“We are not giving or selling the land so it is still public and we should not give up public control.”

Speaking at the meeting, Coun Keith Williams (Con, Shaw), the cabinet member for leisure, said: “There has never been a divine right to use the fields and if the council wanted to put up a fence then they could have done so.

“GLL have no intention to do this and they are in talks with the school over shared use of the car park.

“I do not think it is practical for them to charge if they are working with the school.

“This is very good for Swindon as it will save the tax payer millions of pounds but also brings in millions in investment which the council can’t afford.”

It is expected the deal with GLL and Twigmarket will come into effect by the end of the year.

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