The ‘forgotten’ community near Watton, where the children’s play area is a roundabout
09:29 26 June 2014
Archant © 2014
A summit meeting is being planned to resolve the raft of deep-rooted social issues at a housing estate on the outskirts of Watton.
Broken bottles and empty beer cans litter the tyre-marked waste ground.
But for the children who live on the housing estate on the outskirts of Watton, it is their playground.
This is Blenheim Grange, the “forgotten” community where children are forced to play their games on a roundabout and in concrete industrial tubes.
Back in 2001 the green light was given by a government planning inspector to build the homes on the former RAF Watton site, off the Norwich Road, after Breckland Council refused it.
As part of the plans, the developer agreed to contribute funds to a playground, open space and affordable housing, known as a section 106 agreement, to service the estate, which now holds about 545 private, rented and social homes.
But the chairman of the residents’ association, Phil Sampher, 46, says hundreds of people have been let down by bad town planning which has left the estate stripped of basic services, including a safe place for children to play.
“Someone has permission to build these houses, but no-one has said ‘where is your play area going to be?’,” the father of two said.
“That is wrong. You should first be thinking about the people who are going to live there.
“We want a nice place to live. So why has it been left like this? The estate is nice, but it needs the infrastructure to make it better.”
Parents say once the school day is finished, on weekends and in the school holidays, the estate is flooded with youngsters, eager for somewhere to play.
But the lack of facilities – the estate only has a Spar shop, a take-away and a charity shop – has forced children as young as four and five to congregate on the roundabout in the centre of the estate, near the path of lorries, for some space. Many fear it is only a matter of time before a child is killed or seriously hurt.
The residents’ association wants a community building and playground which will help keep children safe.
A pot of cash is sitting in Carbrooke parish council’s account for play equipment, provided by Orbit Housing, but the land where the residents’ association wants the play area to be located has not been released.
The current community hub is a hut provided by the developer, but it can only fit 15 people inside.
A lottery fund application is also being made by the residents’ association to help fund the £700,000 facility, which the community hopes could house coffee mornings, a nursery, an art group and more.
But Mr Sampher says the association should not have to go after the money and it should have been provided.
“I think the estate has been forgotten,” he said.
“A lot of section 106 [agreement] money was given to this area, but when is the estate going to have this money back?”
“This is not just for us, but for the children of our children. If we don’t do it now then it will never be done.”
Breckland Council says it is up to the developers to deliver the elements of the section 106 agreement once the building work is complete and emphasised that it initially refused permission on the site before being overruled by central government.
A spokesman for the Blenheim Grange Consortium, which comprises Taylor Wimpey, Bloor Homes and Barratt Homes, said: “The consortium has fulfilled its requirement for the section 106 agreement at Blenheim Grange, which includes the provision of a green ‘kickabout’ area for children.
“In addition, we are currently working alongside the Orbit Housing Association, Blenheim Grange Residents’ Association and Carbrooke Parish Council to explore the potential for a further play area to be provided for the residents.”