Protect our playing fields, say Downend groups

October 22 2015

THE future of playing fields in Downend, Bromley Heath and Mangotsfield is in doubt because of planned budget cuts.

THE future of playing fields in Downend, Bromley Heath and Mangotsfield is in doubt because of planned budget cuts.

South Gloucestershire Council wants to transfer the management and maintenance of sports pitches and facilities to community groups.

But if no one comes forward to take them on, some pavilions could be boarded up or bulldozed and some fields left to become overgrown. Unprotected sites might also be targeted by developers, residents fear.

Campaigners have swung into action with the aim of preserving the playing fields, which include King George V and Badminton Road and Bromley Heath.

A petition has been launched and people across the area are being urged to respond to the council's consultation, which ends on December 14.

One option is for Downend & Bromley Heath Parish Council to take on responsibility for the sites within its boundaries. This would mean a small rise in the parish precept, which is collected alongside council tax.

No decision has been taken yet, but interested parties are invited to an open meeting at Downend Baptist Church on October 29 at 7pm.

The Friends group for King George V and Badminton Road and the We Love Bromley Heath Park group are co-ordinating a petition seeking support for the idea of the parish council taking on full responsibility for the parks.

They will have a stand at the Round Table fireworks event on November 6 and at the Christmas in Downend event on November 27 where people can add their signatures. The petition is also online.

The fireworks event, now in its 44th year, takes place at the King George V playing fields and could be at risk if the whole site becomes privately run. Similarly, the hugely popular HeathFest could be threatened if the Bromley Heath site is not in local control. The children's play parks are not affected by the proposals, nor are the areas protected under the Fields in Trust scheme.

Fiona Konteh, chairwoman of the Friends of King George V and Badminton Road, said members of her group and the Bromley Heath group were determined to oppose any threat to playing fields.

“It goes against all the moves to encourage people to participate in sport and combat obesity,” she said. “A rise in the parish precept would be a small price to pay to ensure the playing fields are kept. It could also mean the facilities could be improved and used by more people and groups.”

The overall proposals are part of a plan by South Gloucestershire Council to save £145,000 a year by transferring responsibility for maintenance and management of nine playing field sites to sports clubs and volunteer groups.

The council is asking for expressions of interest by November 30. It held a meeting at Kingswood Civic Centre on October 21 to explain the scheme.

Many teams and clubs who use the fields will register an interest, but might not have the resources to take on the whole site. South Gloucestershire Council says it costs more than £25,000 a year to run King George V and Badminton Road, some of which is recouped by hiring out the facilities. The figure for Bromley Heath is £6,765.

One of the affected sites, Barley Close field - also known as Windsor Place field - in Mangotsfield, is not used by any regular sports team and does not fall within a parish council area. This could mean it will be neglected and fall out of use for picnicking and dogwalking as there is no obvious group to take on the £5,370 running costs.

Further information is on the consultation page of the council website. The council points out that the idea is not new: a number of sports facilities in the district have already been transferred to third parties, typically the main sports club that uses them.

More details of the proposals will also be in the November print edition of Downend Voice, to be distributed from October 29.