Skatepark issue still dividing Steyning

Memorial Playing Field in Steyning ENGSUS00320121231123305
Memorial Playing Field in Steyning ENGSUS00320121231123305

Plans for a permanent Steyning skatepark are still dividing the community.

At a Steyning Parish Council meeting last night, the Memorial Playing Field was nearly ruled out as a potential site for the skatepark.

In the end, councillors voted to take the plan forward, with all sites to be considered.

In a sometimes heated debate, it was pointed out that a town poll had shown majority support for the skatepark.

Gill Muncey said: “There’s a majority in favour, but it’s a very divisive issue. I’m very concerned that you’re resurrecting something that’s been such a divisive issue.”

A previous application for planning permission to build a skatepark on the playing field was dropped because of potential legal issues.

Planning officers had advised that restricting night time access to the skatepark, so as to prevent noise nuisance, might conflict with the land’s village green status.

Martin Toomey said: “I understand from West Sussex County Council that it wouldn’t be a case of overturning village green legislation, but varying it.”

He cited the example of the tennis courts, asking: “Should we take them down because of the village green status of the area?”

Rodney Goldsmith asked whether the council had taken independent legal advice on the issue.

“If there’s a legal challenge then it’s going to bankrupt us,” he said. “Are you prepared for that Martin?”

Steve Northam said it ‘completely undermined democracy’ to have a town poll showing support for the plan, only to have it put on hold through threats of legal action.

Mrs Muncey proposed forming a working party to look at the skatepark issue, but exclude the Memorial Playing Field as a possible location. This, she said, might make the plan less divisive.

The proposal was narrowly rejected, with five councillors for it and seven against.

Mr Northam proposed that the council should investigate the plan for a permanent skatepark, keeping potential legal challenges in mind, and form a working party to take the plan forward. That proposal was accepted, with eight votes in favour.

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