Village ‘row’ leads to Lottery cash debacle

Walmer Bridge 'youth pod'
Walmer Bridge 'youth pod'
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A £10,000 Lottery grant has been sent back after a row over a park youth shelter.

Walmer Bridge Village Committee successully applied for the cash to build a covered four-bench shelter in a park off Dob Lane, having gained an agreement in prinicple from land owners, South Ribble Council.

Walmer Bridge 'youth pod'

Walmer Bridge 'youth pod'

But after nine months of deliberating, officers changed their minds 
and decided to support a petition of 52 people against the plans, despite 98 people signing a petition in support.

They claimed the issue would have been too divisive in the village.

The decision means the grant has had to be returned, as will a further £5,000 given by Lancashire County Council.

Tanya Wilcock of the Walmer Bridge Village Committee, who applied for the cash, said: “Why has the minority got such a loud voice in Walmer Bridge?

“We consulted with the local police, the parish council, the county council, we had a marquee up at the summer fete, and details were in a newsletter sent to every house in the village. After that I had one person contact me with concerns.”

Having received the money in December 2014, Mrs Wilcock contacted South Ribble Council in January to ask about installation, and was only then told about the petition in objection. In response, Mrs Wilcock sent the petition in support to the council, as well as letters from local school children.

She claims to have heard nothing back until lodging a formal complaint in June. A meeting was then arranged between the committee and parks department, which did not take place until September and resulted in a formal refusal of the shelter plans.

She said: “It’s an absolute shame, considering all the hard work that’s gone into it. We’re very, very upset that democracy doesn’t seem to work.

“Every other village in the Western Parishes has a youth shelter in a park, so it’s not unusual, and was a key part of our village plan.

“There’s nothing here where older kids can go and sit and chill and do what kids do. It would stop them from hanging around shops and the police would know where they’d be.

“You can’t please everybody, but look at the consultation we gave them. And if you live near a park, you must expect play equipment.

“I think there’s a lot of scaremongering going on.”

Coun John Rainsbury, vice chairman of Walmer Bridge Parish Council, said: “The majority of the Parish Council were in favour of the shelter in principle, should a suitable site be available.

“But the proposed site on the park was not deemed by the borough council to be a suitable venue.”

Councillor Peter Mullineaux, South Ribble Borough Council cabinet member with responsibility for neighbourhoods and street scenes said: “The Committee proposed the funding be used to build a youth shelter in Walmer Bridge Park.

“However, we received a large number of objections to the idea from within the village. One of the priorities for our My Neighbourhood projects is to bring communities together. The strength of feeling expressed in the objections clearly showed this would have been a divisive issue in the village.

“As a result, two ideas were proposed to the Walmer Bridge Committee, the Committee chose to increase the size of the kickabout area. This was turned down for lottery funding.

“South Ribble Borough Council remains committed to continuing to work with the community to build a larger kickabout area.”