Seafront residents in Burnham-On-Sea say they are being “ignored” by the Town Council over their calls for a proposed play area to be re-located further along the Esplanade – and they are now considering legal action.
As reported here, residents of Quantock Court say that while they support the idea of a new seafront play area, the tarmac area on the South Esplanade earmarked for the new facilities is “unsuitable” as it is ‘regularly used’ for various outdoor activities by families, runners, dog walkers, keep fit enthusiasts and cyclists, and is also overlooked by their flats.
They voiced their concerns at the latest virtual meeting of the council’s Town Improvements Committee, and handed in a petition to the Town Council calling for the proposed play area to be relocated further along the seafront to the lawns opposite Burnham Holiday Village.
As reported in November, the project is being paid for using £87,400 of funding from Hinkley Point’s Community Impact Mitigation Fund.
But, after listening to concerns from residents Paul Hutchings, Bob Nicholson and Rod Broome during the council meeting, the Town Council’s committee chairman Cllr Andy Hodge read out a pre-prepared statement defending the proposed location.
Resident Paul Hutchings said afterwards: “The residents feel very strongly that whatever questions and issues we provide they are not willing to consider changing their approach.”
“The response provided to us at this week’s meeting was pre-prepared and revealed nothing new. They are happy that the tarmac area only caters for under 12s and they claim that is not a change of use. Our view is that can’t be true. They say there is no need for planning permission and no issues bye laws. We need a legal view of this.”
“They say the 290-odd respondents to the consultation in 2018 is sufficient consultation and gives them a mandate for change. We say Burnham has over 20,000 residents and asking visitors at the food festival is hardly consulting actual locals who are the most impacted.”
“They could place the solution on the grass but they have the Wicksteed offer and can see no reason to change direction. We tried to recognise the cost issue regarding the possibility of additional foundations needed to place on grass. We believe Wicksteed would welcome the challenge to change the design and provide a combined offer with the trim trail.”
“The trim trail work has not been progressed to the same maturity as the play area and again we wonder why. The Burnham Evolution Plan requirements can be met keeping the current facility and creating the trim trail and play area on grass but the council will not consider a change of approach.”
“We mentioned the precedent created by the recent case in Bournemouth and the council made no comment but during their zoom meeting there was a visible reaction by one or two councillors.”
“We are not surprised that we are being ignored. I am being asked to consider arranging for legal action and to take the case to SDC. Residents are willing to make contributions to a fund to enable the taking on of a solicitor.”
“Bottom line is that I think our residents are angry that the council view that there is no need to adjust course and adapt when challenged to improve the solution that benefits the everyone.”
Cllr Andy Hodge told the council meeting: “We are grateful for your comments, your emails and what you have said. In general, I think what you are saying is that you are pledging your support for the children’s playground project.”
“We appear to be aligned in our understanding that the chosen location for the play area is already being used by families enjoying informal recreational activities, which is why the installation of a play area at that location is ‘permitted development’.”
“The play area has been designed to be inclusive, aimed at young children of varying abilities and we believe this is especially important after the Covid pandemic to help with the physical recovery and mental wellbeing of young children.”
“The younger zone will be attractive to children up to the age of 6 years old and the older zone is aimed for children up to the age of around 12. The design does not target older teenagers and doesn’t include big dynamic pieces of equipment.”
“The project was born out of the Burnham Evolution project’s business plan and it’s been well documented since 2018. The proposed location the play area has not been kept a secret. It has been out there with detailed explanations and photographs of the location.”
“The lawned areas to the south of the Esplanade are designated as ‘green spaces’ and stand out against a large expanse of tarmac. You’re right that maybe some future time they can be made little prettier. The full business plan is on the council website. The aims of the business plan mirror the goals of the Burnham economic plan, and noticeably include an item 7 to ‘encourage physical activity’ adapting the public landscape and public realm assets to ensure access for all, building in appropriate recreational facilities. Item 8 is ‘be brave’ – Burnham will be a town to encourage residents to try new things.”
“The Burnham Evolution business plan was informed by public consultation and by the economic plan and neighbourhood plan, both of which were the subject of local community and stakeholder consultation. The public were given the choice to engage in the process. The council can only work with the responses it receives during that period. We must take into consideration the wider needs of the entire parish and make decisions based on those wider needs. This includes consideration of residents, visitors and the future economy.”
Pictured Top: residents Bob Nicholson, Paul Hutchings, and Austin Winstanley