Leigh Park will retain green space

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By Stour & Avon Magazine | Friday, November 09, 2012, 11:00

STEPS are to be taken to preserve a precious green space in Wimborne in perpetuity by having it declared a Queen Elizabeth II Playing Field in Trust.

Town councillors voted by six to four on Tuesday to bid for the official status for Leigh Park, whose future came back into doubt when it was suggested in the draft core strategy for East Dorset that the site might be developed for housing.

Following the public consultation into the new blueprint for future development in the district, East Dorset District Council has recommended in its revised core strategy that the proposal be amended to keep part of the playing field and develop a brief, in consultation with the community, for the remainder.

But Councillor Shane Bartlett, who has fought consistently for the site to be preserved as open space for the residents of the area, successfully persuaded the town council to apply for the QEII status for two thirds, and so preserve it for ever.

The remaining third, he said, could be made available for future development if needed.

The Queen Elizabeth II Field Challenge from the Playing Fields Association allows groups and councils to nominate open spaces they want to remain permanently protected, and in return offers improvement grants and support materials.

Mr Bartlett said: "I was told by people I canvassed all over town at the time of the election, and believe passionately, that we need our green space, and will be storing up problems for the youth of that area if we lose it," he said.

He was supported by Councillor Mrs Diann March who said it was not what she really wanted, the whole thing, but a compromise which was better than nothing.

"The council has already made the decision to keep Leigh Park as green space, and it is really important that we demonstrate support for the families down at Leigh," she said.

"They should have just as good a play area as we have here in the town. Councillor Ryan in the 1980s fought hard to get it into town council ownership."

Councillor David Packer argued that while the proposal seemed a good idea, it would restrict options for the future.

He said the change in the core strategy put forward by the district council was in response to the town council's objection to the original proposal, and would keep nearly two thirds of the 5.9 acres as open space, including a multi-use games area and youth club, leaving 2.2 acres the subject of a discussion on how to achieve what was best for the residents of Leigh Park.

"It would be wrong to tie the hands of this council and East Dorset by irrevocably giving it up to the Playing Fields Association as a Queen Elizabeth II Field in Trust," he said.

Councillor Alan Spencer agreed, saying that only 3.5 per cent of residents had responded when they were asked if the area should be retained, leaving over 96 per cent indifferent.

"Our options should be left open," he said.

"The site might not even meet the criteria for a Queen Elizabeth II Field in Trust."

Councillor Robin Cook said the aim of the proposal had been to prevent a threat to the site which had now been removed in the proposed revision to the core strategy.

"East Dorset want to engage with residents to get the greatest benefit for them, and I am very strongly opposed to losing control of any of our assets," he said.

But in the recorded vote which followed, the majority accepted Councillor Bartlett's proposal to nominate the site as a QEII Field in Trust.

Nicci Brown



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