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Heated debate on Eccleshall play area plans

By Staf Newsletter  |  Posted: February 28, 2013

By Kerry Ashdown

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A PARISH council chairman was compared to Captain Mainwaring from TV sitcom Dad’s Army during a heated meeting where Eccleshall residents voiced concerns about a proposed play area.

 

Eccleshall Parish Council is planning to install play equipment and a youth shelter on land at Bishop’s Court to improve facilities for local young people.

But some residents opposing the siting of the play area fear the plan is already a “done deal”.

At a public meeting last night at Eccleshall Community Centre one told council chairman Gordon Dale: “A lot of people in this town refer to you as Captain Mainwaring.”

But Councillor Dale stressed that no decision had been made to site the equipment at Bishops Court. A decision would be made at a later date once the plans had been discussed at the council’s enhancements committee and by the full council, which residents would be able to attend, he said.

The open space has been used for more than 30 years as a play place for youngsters and a dog walking spot. But if play equipment was installed dogs would be prevented from entering the site by law, last night’s public meeting at Eccleshall Community Centre was told.

Councillor Dale said he had not been aware that dog owners were concerned about losing the open space as an area to walk their pets.

But resident Martin Watson said: “At the very first meeting of the council about this we had a public session and I raised the issue of dog walking. Your words were the parish council would consider it.

“To say you don’t know about it is an absolute farce.”

More than 60 people attended the meeting, organised by the parish council.

The council has consulted residents living nearby on the plans and the meeting was told they had received 10 responses in support of the proposal, while 47 households objected.

Jan Watson told Councillor Dale that there were concerns that the youth shelter would be placed in an unlit and secluded area.

“The police have stated they are not in favour of a shelter in Eccleshall,” she said. “In their experience it leads to bullying and antisocial behaviour.

“Currently in Eccleshall there is no such behaviour from the youth.”

But Councillor Dale said: “It is all perceived fear. I would be more than pleased to have this play area in my area.”

Lee Featherstone, speaking on behalf of Eccleshall’s young people, said they would prefer the new facilities to be near the new youth club.

“I have just spent a week with them on a Finnish exchange and asked them what they thought of the proposal. The young people didn’t want what was proposed on this land,” he said.

“Another area needs to be found where the needs of the young people can be met.”  

A youth survey conducted last year received almost 200 responses from eight to 20 year-olds.

Almost a third of respondents said they wanted a bigger or better play area and many wanted somewhere to sit and chat.

But 65 per cent said a youth shelter should be positioned in the open where they could see who was approaching and passers-by could see them. And 20 per cent of respondents said they wanted the open space at Bishop’s Court to be left as it is now.

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