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Chippenham Skate to victory
11:20am Friday 13th September 2013 in News
JUBILANT Chippenham skaters are a step closer to victory in a decade long fight for a permanent skatepark in the town.
Wiltshire Council’s Chippenham Area Board voted on Tuesday night to submit a planning application for a concrete skatepark in Monkton Park, next to the Olympiad leisure centre and multi-use games area.
After 11 years of searching, councillors have decided on much the same place where the last one was shut down.
At a meeting in the Neeld Hall attended by about 75 members of the public, the young skating fans feared the plan may be scuppered by an unforeseen amendment proposed by Monkton Councillor Chris Caswill.
He argued the task group should prepare a parallel report on a Bristol Road site, with the board to decide next January at the latest.
He said: “There is no dispute about the need, it is about the location. The most glaring omission in the report is the scale of opposition.”
He said the strong commitment to Monkton Park of the majority in the skatepark task group meant they had on occasion cut corners when looking at other sites, an accusation denied by task group chairman Coun Peter Hutton.
Coun Caswill said many of the reasons sited by the group as small risks for Monkton Park had been assessed as significant risks for Bristol Road, for example closeness to children’s playground, potential for skateboarders to use sloping paths and disturbance to dog walkers. His proposed amendment was seconded by Hardenhuish Councillor Nick Watts, but was rejected in a vote.
Coun Bill Douglas, whose ward used to include Bristol Road, said residents of Cepen Park and Hardenhuish would object to a skatepark there equally strongly.
Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott was applauded when she said: “It is an amendment to put off, put off, put off. For goodness’ sake, we’ve lost one cohort of young people waiting for this to happen; they’ve left the county, gone off to uni. Let’s not lose another.”
Coun Watts said: “Residents are alarmed at the return of an outdoor skatepark to virtually the same site. The board will underestimate at its peril the powerfulness of these feelings.”
Brandon Chivers, 16, of Loyalty Street, who said he did not not want to see the plans “pushed to the bottom of the pile” after n Continued: Page 2 they had “pleaded for a skatepark for several years”. He said skating did not appear to be seen as worthy a sport as football, and “If there was a facility proposed for that we would have had it by now”.
After the meeting he said: “I didn’t think they would respect our views as much as we’re not seniors.” Brandon, who has been involved with the Bridge Centre for three years, said he was not going to think about how long the planning application would now take, and just focus on the end prize, which he said would be good value for the council.
“It will be used, I’d say by at least 100 people just in Chippenham,” he said. “It’s not something that’s going to die out after the first week; it’s not a 10 minute toy.”
Other speakers in favour of the Monkton Park location included Judy Edwards, manager of the Chippenham Partnership of Schools, who said: “The residents of Monkton Park cannot be the only consideration in this process. Drug-taking, noise-making, anti-social and careless are unfortunate and unwarranted stereotypes of youths that have often not been challenged enough by our councillors.”
Among those protesting was Sadlers Mead resident Irene Goodall, whose husband played an active part in getting the last skatepark there shut down in 2002. She said: “It would be dreadful PR for the council if this plan should fail again.”
Chippenham Town Councillor Ian Keasey, who also spoke against, said: “If Monkton Park is the heart of Chippenham then we don’t want to give it cardiac arrest.”
But much to the youths' delight, progressing Monkton Park to the planning process was supported by the majority of the area board councillors – all except Coun Caswill, and Coun Watts who abstained.
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