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Lancaster Labour Opposes County Land Grab

Author: 
John Freeman

Local Labour city and county councillors, as well as Lancaster’s MP Cat Smith have reacted angrily to Lancashire County Council’s plans to stop the public from being able to use the Barton Road Playing Fields.

Earlier this month, the LCC announced its intention to change the playing field’s terms of use to ‘educational’ and to erect a 2.6m fence around its perimeter, to the dismay of local residents who use the area and have taken to social media in droves to protest.

The County Council is inviting comments to its web site, which must be made by 24th September 2018.

The Fields are clearly very popular with residents and well used, evidenced by a Strava heatmap posted by Glyn Hodgson showing how people use them. (Strava is a software app that monitors people’s exercises and aids them to train).

"It's clearly a open space that people use," he said in a post to a lively thread about the plans on the 30,000-plus strong Facebook group Lancaster Past and Present.

“We’re really concerned that the County Council has made this application in such a unilateral way”, said Erica Lewis, County Councillor for Lancaster South East. “They haven’t consulted with any local groups or representatives, or even the schools named within the application. This is wrong. It just shows how out of touch the county council is when it fails to canvass the views and concerns of the local community.”

Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith has had a significant number of constituents contact her about the proposals.

“It goes without saying that everyone wants to ensure there are safe places for children and young people to enjoy outdoor recreational space,” explained Ms Smith. “But it’s as important for them to do this outside of school hours as it is during the school week. I believe to provide a happy and healthy environment for everyone our green spaces need to be accessible to everyone no matter what age they are or the time of day.”

As the city and county councillors and MP who represent this area, Labour is urging LCC to withdraw the proposal. If further work is needed to ensure there is safe and secure outdoor sport and recreational space for the pupils of Moorside Primary School we would encourage LCC to work with us and the community to find a solution.

“We still have many unanswered questions,” said Cllr Lewis. “There are concerns that this is nothing short of a land grab. Why does such a large part of the field need to be fenced? Has the council taken into account the risk of flooding and what are the views of the local schools?

"On top of this the City Council has designated this area as recreational green space in the draft local plan and this is currently with the planning inspector. Was there any consultation with the city council prior to this application? We’d also like to know if the county council has any intention of using this land for anything other than educational purposes, and whether education purposes includes plans to build a new school? At the end of the day, this proposal seems excessive and ill-thought out and LCC needs to withdraw it and consult with the local community as a matter of urgency.”

Countering the concerns, Tim Ripley, local resident and parent of a child at Moorside Primary School argues in favour of the plans. 

"Lancashire County Council are to be congratulated for their proposals which preserve valuable out door play space for one of Lancaster's biggest primary schools," Tim, who gave evidence at Town Green Planning Inquiry two years ago says.

"It was an obvious nonsense that the safety of hundreds of our children should have been put at risk under the Town Green proposals just to allow a few dozen people to be able to walk their dogs.

"This is the consequence of the Town Green campaign," he argues. "If the legal process they initiated ultimately goes against the Lancashire Country Council it will result in Moorside Primary School’s children losing their safe and secure playing field. It is very clear from the planning application documents that the council are reacting to the moves made by the Town Green campaigners. Creating a new safe and secure area for local children must be welcomed and supported.

"This issue has been going on for almost a decade and the resulted in the farce of the planning appeal that cost local taxpayers £31,000 and threatened to remove common sense measures to protect Moorside Primary School's children. This was money that could have been spent on education and other services that local people need. Let’s hope that this sensible measure gets the support it deserves.

"I hope that the parents of children at schools in the area and other interested parties who support protecting our children make their views know to the council.”

• if you want to comment on these plans you need to either email devcon@lancashire.gov.uk or you can do it online at http://planningregister.lancashire.gov.uk - there are two applications 40 & 41

Barton-Road-Heat-Map-2018.jpg

 Glyn Hodgson
Barton Road Playing Fields Strava Heat Map. Contrast amended to show detail. Image: Glyn Hodgson

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