Children's play area on village green delayed by legal row

Oxborough village green

The doorstep green at Oxborough, where a row has broken out over the siting of a children's play area - Credit: Google

A new children's play area on a village green is being held up after a councillor changed his mind over it being built.

The parish council at Oxborough, near Swaffham, raised £13,699 to build the facility last year. It included a lottery grant of £9,699.

But the project has been stalled for six months after a legal challenge.

Oxborough Farms Ltd, which sold the land to the village in 2005 says a covenant agreed at the time stipulates no structure can be built on it without its written consent.

Villagers are now taking legal advice, but fear if work does not begin before the end of the month they will lose the lottery funding, putting an end to the project.

Oxborough Farms' sole director, Ian Monson, is a parish councillor, who seconded proposals for the playground at meetings in September and November 2019.

New Recycling Centre, Willows Business Park, Saddlebow, King's Lynn. Pictured: Norfolk County Counci

Ian Monson, pictured when he was also a county councillor in 2008 - Credit: Ian Burt

Minutes of a council meeting in January 2020 said: "Councillor Monson thought it would be very beneficial to the village and might encourage families with children into the village."

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But October's minutes say Mr Monson e-mailed the council to say he had changed his mind.

The council also received a solicitor's letter warning the play area would breach a covenant forbidding the construction of any building or structure on the land.

In January, Mr Monson proposed a compromise, allowing the playground to be built on a different part of the green. It contained a clause stating permission would be for five years, after which the matter would be reviewed.

But councillors said the site was unsuitable because it was near a home, a sparse hedge and deep drainage ditch.

"Mr Monson has now revoked all permission because we did not get back to him in the required time," a village source said. "The lawyer for the council has sent quite a strongly-worded letter, he's got seven days to reply." 

A statement on the council's website states: "OFL [Oxborough Farms Ltd] has withheld permission for the playground equipment to be installed, citing the opinion that it will be an eye-sore and a danger to children due to the proximity of the nearby entrances, concluding that there is no suitable site for the equipment.

"OPC [Oxborough Parish Council] has received solicitor advice which suggests that the withholding of the permission to install play equipment is unreasonable and therefore not in the spirit of the transfer wording, and a letter to this effect will be prepared for the attention of OFL."

Mr Monson refused to comment.