Hundreds back playing fields petition

Published on: 03 Dec 2015

Graeme Riley receives the petition from Victoria Veasey, Fiona Konteh and Mary Lewis

MORE than 500 people have signed a petition in favour of bringing Downend’s main playing fields  under local control.
The Friends groups for King George V and Badminton Road and Bromley Heath collected the signatures in support of their campaign to protect the parks for the future.
As reported in Downend Voice last month, South Gloucestershire Council can no longer afford to maintain the pitches and open space from April next year, If  no one takes on the management, the fields will no longer be maintained and other facilities, such as the pavilions, will have to close.
It wants parish councils or sports teams and other users of the facilities to take over responsibility for their maintenance and management.
Downend & Bromley Heath Parish Council is giving careful consideration to the proposals, which would mean increasing the parish precept – the amount paid alongside council tax by householders for local services.
It held a public meeting on October 29 where parish council chairman Graeme Riley explained that the Downend precept – which is much lower than in similar areas – would probably have to rise next year anyway.
Mary Lewis, on behalf of the Friends of King George V and Badminton Road, told the meeting that none of the individual teams that used the fields could take on the management on their own.
“How on earth are they going to find £26,000 a year? It is not going to happen,” she said.
“I am here to ask the parish council to look at taking on the leasing, otherwise football pitches will disappear; cricket pitches will disappear. We will have none of these competitive sports for our young people. That is a disaster. If we lose this, we lose it for the whole of our community.”
Victoria Veasey, from the We Love Bromley Heath Park Friends group, where maintenance costs are estimated at £6,765, acknowledged that taking on the parks would be a major extra responsibility for the parish council.
The campaigners returned to the parish council meeting on November 19, with their petition of 576 signatures. Handing it over, Fiona Konteh, chair of Friends of King George V and Badminton Road,  urged councillors to read some of the many comments in support of preserving the playing fields.
Tina Rainey, community spaces officer at South Gloucestershire, told the meeting that the authority did not want to lose the parks, which were valuable community assets.
The parish council voted unanimously to express an interest in taking on the parks. It will now get together with other interested parties,  including the Friends and sports teams, to work out how best to take things forward.
The parish council will make a decision on its precept on December 10.
South Gloucestershire Council wants to hand over control of a total of nine parks to save £145,000 a year. It has asked for expressions of interest by November 30.
Groups taking on the parks will be able to either buy back grass cutting and other services from South Gloucestershire or employ their own contractors. They will also be able to raise income from letting out the pitches and other facilities.
Friends reports: Pages 62 and 63

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