Published: October 5, 2010
Councillors give 'thumbs down' to seafront Village Green status

Controversial proposals to turn Burnham-On-Sea’s South Esplanade into an official ‘Village Green’ were given a thumbs-down by town councillors on Monday evening (October 4th).

At a meeting in the Town Council Chambers, Paul Chatwin, the entrepreneur behind plans for a new mini golf course, spoke out against the Village Green application, while Peter Hodder explained why residents want it introduced.

In July, Sedgemoor District Council decided not to award a 25-year lease to Mr Chatwin to transform part of the lawns into a £200,000 mini golf course, as reported here.

Mr Hodder told Monday's meeting: "The application has been made to protect the land from developers and ensure it continues to be available as common land for all to enjoy. It is imperative that we keep the area as open green land for future generations."

But Mr Chatwin countered: "If the application is approved, huge restrictions on use will be put in place that will stay there for eternity, never allowing any development to take place. That land could be vital to the economic survival of this town in the future."

Councillors expressed their reservations about the scheme. Cllr Peter Burridge-Clayton said: "I’m quite concerned about this. New restrictions would be placed on how the lawns are used, which would be permanent. The lawns are not suitable to become a village green for games like football. They are incidental open spaces with flower beds."

Further concerns were expressed by Cllr Ken Smout, who said the proposals represent "a sledgehammer to crack a nut in order to prevent any future development."

And Cllr Chris Williams said he too has reservations: "I feel uneasy about stopping all development in the future. It might well be needed in a few years’ time."

Cllr Joe Leach discussed the ‘unfairness’ of the process, saying: "It’s absolutely bonkers that any piece of land whatsoever can be nominated to become a Village Green. It brings into question the whole process."

However, Cllr Neville Jones gave his backing to the proposals, saying the seafront lawns "are an incredibly valuable asset " that could be tempting to developers.

After hearing the arguments, councillors voted to oppose the proposals. Nine councillors opposed the scheme, while one - Cllr Eric Gill - abstained and two - Cllr Neville Jones and Cllr Joe Leach - decided not to vote.

Despite the Town Council vote, a final decision on the status of the lawns will not be made until later in the year.


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