Further to my previous post detailing the discussions surrounding the play area, and the short post talking about the letter from Oxborough Farms Ltd to the Parish Council, I thought it would be a good idea to analyse what has been proposed, and how that would affect the village.
The letter, which you can read in full here, states that there are some conditions to the approval to allow a play area on the green, and I will address each one separately.
1. The Play equipment will consist of that equipment listed on the attached schedule.Letter from Oxborough Farms to Oxborough Parish Council https://oxborough.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Oxborough-Farms-letter-to-OPC.pdf
I don’t think there can be any diagreement with this condition. It is the plan that was agreed and voted upon by the Parish Council.
2. The play equipment will be constructed at the location shown on the attached plan.Letter from Oxborough Farms to Oxborough Parish Council https://oxborough.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Oxborough-Farms-letter-to-OPC.pdf
The original plan was for the play equipment to be located between the beach tree and the jubilee tree on the north side of the green. This area was between the path and the hedge, which would allow easy access with a pushchair for childen to enter the play area.
During the recent Parish Council meeting, Councillor Monson spoke of the new area, described in the condition, as being to the left of the tree dedicated to Henry Lambert.
That tree is the one on the far right of this photograph, and so one would assume that the location would be alongside the pub. It would require a tree to be removed.
However, closer inspection of the letter, shows that the location proposed is actually adjacent to 14, Oxborough.
As you can see from the photo I took today, it would also require a tree to be removed, perhaps two, as I believe the red box above may be smaller than the size of the original plan. Obviously, a proper site survey will need to be done to estabish this.
The site also has a few other issues. There is no path in that area of the green. Families will have to cross the green to access it, which is not ideal, particularly when the grass is wet, especially if they use a pushchair. It is also one of the areas on the green that is closest to houses, and the hedge in that area is narrow and sparce. There are holes in this hedge which might encourage the children to explore through them.
You will see there is an arrow in this plan which extends to the right (the bus stop end) but the text has been chopped off. This plan was attached to the original deed of covenants that was the agreement for the creation of the green.
In the original plan, the text relating to that arrow states
Wider area of path glade management could be used for play structures if these are desired in the future.
This opens up two questions. Would it be better to site the play area in this part of the green that was originally suggested? And if a play area location was part of the original deed of covenant, do Oxborough Farms have a legal stance to object or place conditions on a play area now?
This area would still need discussion, including on whether a formal path would be needed to access it. Or would the north side of the green still be a better location as it already has an existing path? There is a concern about the safetly of the beach tree, but there is an area further west of the orginal location that also may be suitable.
3. The consent is for a period of five years only (starting on the date of this letter) [27 January 2021] and after the expiry of five years the parish council agree to request consent for the Company to allow the play equipment to remain or to remove the play equipment.Letter from Oxborough Farms to Oxborough Parish Council https://oxborough.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Oxborough-Farms-letter-to-OPC.pd
I have to admit I am struggling to understand why the company that used to own the land woudl want to retain control for the length of time the play area would be in use. Surely that would be the responsibility of the Parish Council?
It was stated in the Parish Council meeting that the requirements of the funding for the play area state that it has to be available for at least 5 years, though I have no proof of that.
That being said, if, after 5 years, it is found that the play area is not used and has passed its viable use, surely it should be up to the elected parish council to make the decision on our behalf whether it stays or not.
There is a lot for the Parish Council to digest with this proposal, and it should not be done in haste.
I think it is now time for the Parish Council to take legal advice and perhaps seek legal representation to see that the residents of this village are given the best opportunity to get the play area that is best for the residents, rather than the company who used to own the site some 16 years ago.
The funding for the project has a dealine (25th March 2021 in the case of the National Lottery fund), but I have spoken to someone who has a lot of experience working with funding from the National Lottery, and they assure me that it should not be a problem to extend this deadline if they are informed that there may be a delay to deal with the legal aspect of the proposal. So it should be possible for the council to take legal advice and representations from villagers to make sure this project proceeds in the best way for the village, rather than making a swift decision which may not be in the best interests of the village.
As ever, I am not a legal expert, so if I have made a mistake in what I have written, please let me know. I write as I see things, but everyone is entitled to their opinion, so we would welcome yours too in the comments below.
Since my last post, I have been contacted by Chris Heatley who was Treasurer for the Oxborough Doorstep Green Action Group. He has stated that the original cost for the Doorstep Green project, when taking into account the footpaths, fencing, hedges as well as the purchase of the land, was £65,000. This, coupled with the fact that there were hardly any children in the village, was the reason that the play area did not go ahead at that stage.