The future of two green spaces in Leyland will not be known until the summer after a delay in collating the results of a public consultation.
The small parks on Bent Lane and Balcarres Green have been the subject of two special events within a wider consultation exercise about how to better connect South Ribble’s green spaces. They also sparked petitions after a letter sent to residents raised the possibility of the sites being used for affordable housing.
But a meeting of South Ribble Borough Council’s cabinet heard that residents’ feedback would be considered in June, after the forthcoming local elections. The authority has now entered a pre-election period known as purdah, meaning politically sensitive activity is restricted - including publishing the results of consultations.
A decision was reached about a site on Bridge Road in Lostock Hall, which will now be worked into the council’s “green links” programme and not used for any other purpose, while an area on Kingsfold Drive in Penwortham will be subject to “further assessment”.
Council leader Margaret Smith said she had been surprised by the “diversity of opinion” which the consultation events about the Leyland sites had revealed.
“That’s why we have struggled to take it forward, because we have to [consider] the views of all residents,” she said.
But a group set up to improve the site on Bent Lane - known locally as Strawberry Valley - says the hold-up has dashed their hopes of securing funding for new play equipment.
Jo Hindle-Taylor said the group would now miss out on bids which had been submitted for more than £30,000.
“Because of the consultation, we’re not allowed to progress to the next stages - and you only get one chance to apply with some of them,” Jo explained.
“We’ve put a lot of work in and all the funding bids have now been a waste of time.”
Cabinet members approved a report which committed to continue working with residents, including on a "self-help, community led approach"
But Labour opposition leader, Paul Foster, said he was struggling to understand the reasons why a "half finished" document was being considered when the green links consultation still had a 10 days to run.
“This is a holding report until after the election in the desperate hope that this hasn’t impacted on your chances,” he said.
But deputy leader of the Conservative-run authority, Caroline Moon, said it was right to consider what residents really wanted in order to address a “complete lack of trust” over the issue.
“Some people want things for children, others for teenagers. Some people want dog toilets removed, others want more dog walking.
“Although this delays things a bit more, I think it will give us the chance to have a better consensus,” Cllr Moon said.
Speaking straight after the meeting, another Strawberry Valley campaigner, Nicky Peet, said differences of opinion over dogs did not mean residents wanted to see the space developed for housing.
“It was clear to all who attended the consultation workshop that, above all else, nobody wanted it to be built on.
“I feel rather heartbroken emerging from the meeting - it’s going to be a tough three months,” she added.