‘Dangerous’ for children’s play areas in Horsham to disappear

JPCT 170215 S15070923x Horsham, Highdown Way children's play area due to be sold by council -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150217-095750001
JPCT 170215 S15070923x Horsham, Highdown Way children's play area due to be sold by council -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150217-095750001

Plans to sell off a children’s play area in Horsham have been opposed by residents and the parish council.

Horsham District Council has decided to decommission the ‘outdated’ facility off Highdown Way in North Horsham due to its proximity to a ‘new and better’ one at Sloughbrook Play Area.

Meanwhile a planning application has been submitted by a home owner to incorporate the land into a nearby residential garden.

But Rosemary Couchman, who lives in Petworth Drive, has opposed the sale of the land and spoke against the application at a North Horsham Parish Council Planning, Environment, and Transport Committee meeting last Thursday February 12.

Mrs Couchman felt it would set a precedent for the loss of public amenity space and could start the ‘gradual erosion of play spaces and green areas’ in the town.

If it were closed down she argued it should either be grassed over and retained as green space or allotments,or if the sale goes ahead covenants should be put on the land to stop house building.

Karen Burgess, a parish councillor and a Conservative candidate for Holbrook East in the upcoming Horsham District Council elections, added: “We do not really want these play areas sold from underneath us.”

Ray Turner, chairman of the committee, described feeling ‘quite uneasy’ and added: “There are lots of pockets of amenity land, some of which are children’s play areas, some are not. It’s dangerous for them to start to disappear and be incorporated into people’s gardens.”

Councillors suggested if it were to cease as a children’s play area it should be retained as public open space.

The parish council resolved to object to the application and expressed concern over the process and lack of consultation over the proposals.

A spokesperson for HDC said: “Our Leisure Services area decided to decommission the play area due to the proximity of a new and better facility for all age groups at Sloughbrook Play Area, approximately 100 metres away.

“The play equipment was reaching the end of its life and had complied with play regulations at the time, however, national guidance now recommends a shift to mixed age play equipment .

“The Highdown Way site was also impractical and limited in size and as a result was not attractive to users, being hidden out of sight. The proximity of a larger more suitable and manageable play area nearby superseded what had become an outdated facility.”