A NEW play park on Chippenham has taken a step closer to reality with the unanimous backing of the town council’s planning committee.
Their recommendation will now go before Monmouthshire County Council whose cabinet decided in a 2018 meeting to relocate the playground from its spot adjacent to the A40 to a more central area on Chippenham field.The present play area, pictured left, is around 60 years old, and the chance of £100k of development money (S106 monies) prompted the prospect of a refurbishment of the tired-looking play equipment.However, groups such as The Friends of Chippenham Mead and Transition Monmouth felt that the close proximity of the busy A40 dual carriageway meant that the site was an unsuitable environment for youngsters to play.Continued from Front PageInitially the recommendation from Mike Moran, Monmouthshire County Council’s (MCC) Community Infrastructure Coordinator was for a refurbishment of the present park, but the 2018 recommendation from MCC’s cabinet said that due to “its proximity to noise and possible vehicle emissions from the busy adjacent trunk road” they decided to look to build a new park in another spot on Chippenham Mead.But this creates new problems as Chippenham was given a village green status in the 1970s and this alone would mean a referral to the Welsh Government for approval, as well as a nod for planning approval.If objections are lodged, it could mean a two-year wait as it may involve a public inquiry.Statutory consultees such as Natural Resources Wales, CADW and the Heritage Officer have said they would not comment until a planning application is made - which it was on 16th August 2019, (DM/2019/01333) - the Open Spaces Society have given a strong indication that they would object and MCC would then have to employ expensive barristers as a public enquiry would be launched.Another hurdle to overcome would be the possibility that the proposed scheme may require a sustainable drainage system designed in accordance with the Welsh Government Standards for sustainable drainage (SuDS). The scheme will require approval by the SuDS Approving Body (SAB) prior to any construction work commencing and would need a seven week window to determine the application. However the drainage consequences could be mitigated if the plan reduces the amount of safety surfacing used down to allowable limits.A tree survey in May 2019 on the 10 trees affected by the proposal concluded that no trees would have to be removed, although some may require the lower branches lopped to give a three metre clearance below.At the town council planning meeting last Tuesday, 12th November, members of the public were allowed to speak. Caroline Bright asked councillors whether there would be any equipment for people with disabilities and whether there would be wheelchair-accessible equipment and changing facilities with a hoist as part of the project. Cllr Jamie Treharne, chairing the meeting, advised that there would be a public consultation regarding what equipment is required and what the plans are for specific equipment. He said he was not aware of any plans for changing facilities but he would raise it with the MCC officer, Mike Moran. Cllr Rachel Jupp said that she did not believe there was funding for changing facilities and the nearest disabled toilet would be Waitrose. Miss Bright confirmed that facility does not include a hoist and the only one in Monmouth that does is at Bridges Centre. Mrs Olive Bright asked whether the play area would be accessible by wheelchair. It was explained that there would be fencing on only one side of the play park with the rest being open. It was confirmed that the play area would be on safety flooring not on grass. Cllr Anthea Dewhurst noted that if the park was open it would be possible for dogs to access the play area. Cllr Richard Roden thanked them for their comments as said it was helpful to have an understanding of accessibility needs at this early stage of the process. A county council spokesperson told the Beacon: “If the current planning application for relocating the play area at Chippenham Mead is approved, the proposal still requires village green consent and that application will be determined by the Welsh Government Planning Inspectorate. “The detailed layout of the new play area, if approved, will need to be carefully designed because of the existing site constraints and to blend in with the village green surroundings”.In 2018 MCC deputy leader Cllr Bob Greenland said in 2018: “We have a duty towards our children and we also respect the ideals of legislation designed to protect Chippenham Mead from development. We will have to make a decision, balancing the well-being of children with the protection of this valuable open space”. The plans will now come before MCC’s planning committee for a decision.