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Environmental issues may wreck hopes for skate park
FEARS have been raised that a new council policy could scupper plans for a skate park in Botley.
North Hinksey Parish Council is being urged to approve a new skate park for the Louie Memorial Playing Field, which it owns.
But there are concerns that a new management plan for the site could dash these hopes by making demands on environmental issues.
Those behind the plan said they were bound by new legislation, but this would not rule out a new skate park.
The call for a new facility, to replace the wrecked ‘Botley Bowl’, has divided the council and led to a public campaign.
A motion by council member Briony Newport to take the upper and lower playing fields out of the management plan was defeated at a meeting on Thursday.
The previous management plan did not include the playing fields, she said.
She warned it “could block the development of future sports facilities because an environment assessment will not accept the development”.
Mrs Newport said it was donated to the council with a “specified purpose” in the deeds that it should be used for recreation and sport.
She said: “These fields were not intended as a nature park, rather a community resource with specified uses.”
The land, off Arnold’s Way, was given to the council by the Kingerlee family in 1939.
But councillor Robin Carr said the council had “no presumption for recreational facilities in preference to open space”.
He said the plan has to take into account the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 for conservation.
Official guidance says this “requires all public bodies to have regard to biodiversity conservation when carrying out their functions”.
He said: “It is therefore unnecessary and indeed inadvisable to remove the playing field from the management plan.”
But he said it is a “working document” that could be updated.
He told the Oxford Mail: “The council has a duty to do this. It is there because it has to be there, not because we are trying to block it through the back door.”
The ‘Botley Bowl’ was filled in after a van was dumped in it and set alight in 2009.
A petition with 806 signatures was presented to the parish council in July calling for a new facility. Campaigners have pledged to raise the £80,000-£125,000 needed for its creation.
The council has yet to make a decision.
The council’s management plan for the Louie Memorial Copse, Fen and Playing Fields seeks to “safeguard and preserve the recreational value, natural beauty and biodiversity”.
It says: “The key thrust is to maintain the area in much the same shape as it is now.”
The plan says the views of residents “particularly those who know the areas well and use them regularly” will get “due weight” for any project.
It says: “The management plan does not consider in any detail the children’s play area, or the other issues of sports and recreational facilities, except insofar as they impact the natural environment.”