King’s Head Meadow Playscape Group “angry” over Norfolk County Council’s withdraw from mediation process for Wymondham play area
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
A community group set up in the midst of a dispute over a Wymondham play area is 'angry' and 'disappointed' Norfolk County Council (NCC) has stepped away from its mediation role.
The King's Head Meadow Playscape Group has condemned an NCC decision to leave a working group set up to solve the standoff over the equipment.
NCC's withdrawal comes ahead of a visit by a Play England representative, who the town council has called on to assess the meadow, and a potential new site for the equipment there proposed by the working group.
Sharon Hastings, the KHM Playscape Group's secretary, said the group was: 'very disappointed and angry with NCC's decision to withdraw from the process now before the Play England visit.'
She added: 'This leaves us in a very exposed position with a motion to remove the play equipment still in place and no resolution as to its future.
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'A direct line of communication with the council via the working group is no longer in place and this concerns us.
'We will not know until the next agenda is published how the town council plan to move forward.
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'We are prepared to resume the fight to keep the playscape on the King's Head Meadow by whatever means necessary.'
Amy Brooke, the county council's head of services and partnerships for south Norfolk, chaired the working group.
In a statement, she said: 'A report outlining the initial requirements for this proposal has been provided to Wymondham Town Council (WTC).
'NCC now considers its work is complete and that the time is right for it to step away from the process to allow the final decision making, which ultimately rests with WTC, take place.'
A majority of town councillors voted last year to remove the playscape equipment - installed in 2014 at a cost of £75,000 - due to concerns from residents of nearby Orchard Way over noise and anti-social behaviour. But in August, scores of residents who wanted to keep the play equipment where it was occupied the site when contractors were due to move in.
NCC stepped in and ran a series of public consultation sessions, and then set up the working group to try to find a solution. The group has recommended, although not unanimously, to move the playscape to the Back Lane side of the meadow.
Statement issued by Amy Brooke (NCC) - originally published on the Wymondham Town Council website
In August 2016, Wymondham Town Council (WTC) accepted an offer from Norfolk County Council (NCC) to provide a mediation service and help the community find a solution for the location of the play area at King's Head Meadow.
The working group, made up of nominated members of the community, has now put forward a proposal for a compromise solution. This proposal is based on feedback from interested parties in the community and agreed by consensus as being the most viable option.
A report outlining the initial requirements for this proposal has been provided to WTC and the Town Council has now asked Play England to give them expert specialist advice on the existing and proposed new site.
As a result of reaching this stage in the process and having helped people in Wymondham work together to put forward this compromise solution, which has a consensus of support, NCC now considers its work is complete and that the time is right for it to step away from the process to allow the final decision making, which ultimately rests with Wymondham Town Council, take place.
Town Clerk Trevor Gurney commented that this matter will be discussed at a future meeting of the Town Council.
Full statement from the KHM Playscape Group
The KHM Playscape Group are very disappointed and angry with NCC's decision to withdraw from the process now before the Play England visit. We believe that without Amy there can be no meeting with Play England as the council voted that this meeting should include her. This also leaves us in a very exposed position with a motion to remove the play equipment still in place and no resolution as to its future. A direct line of communication with the Council via the Working Group is no longer in place and this concerns us. We will not know until the next Agenda is published how the Town Council plan to move forward.
We believe strongly the equipment should stay exactly where it is. NCC's original report had retaining the equipment in its current location at number 1 in its list of options. The report also described the existing Playscape as a 'flagship site for its accessibility for people with additional needs and disabilities'. How will moving it to the car park end of the Meadow, where we have many concerns over child health and safety and the lack of established trees and greenery for shade, maintain this flagship status? Certain Councillors on the Working Group have talked about a consensus of opinion and said moving the Playscape to the car park end of the Meadow is the only viable option but none of the options under discussion have been wholly agreed to by the entire Working Group.
As far as we are concerned the facts surrounding the noise and anti-social behaviour issues have never been established. There is no Noise Abatement Order in place and without that why is it necessary to move the equipment? However, if moving it is the eventual consensus reached we want to see due attention paid to some sensible alternative re-siting plans drawn up and submitted by Councillor Hurn to Amy at the beginning of the process that, for whatever reason, were not seen by the whole Working Group.
Sharon Hastings, Group Secretary, said 'We are prepared to resume the fight to keep the Playscape on the King's Head Meadow by whatever means necessary. It feels again like this process will go back behind closed doors away from public consultation and tax payers' money will be spent wastefully on the advice of a few selfish individuals.'