Acomb's Labour ward Councillor Stuart Barnes is meeting with senior council officers this week in a bid to secure the former Manor school playing fields as public open space with leisure and play facilities for Acomb residents.
Despite the fact that the site is used by many dog walkers, the playing fields have been fenced off to the public since the closure of the old Manor School in 2009, with 'No Entry' signs installed by City of York Council to put the public off.
Part of the former playing field has been earmarked for development related to the housing scheme on the old British Sugar site, but plans show that large parts of the fields are not required and are not included in the area that has been agreed 'under option' for development.
The developer recently announced delays to that site could mean no development takes place until 2020, meaning that none of the associated community infrastructure would be delivered until after that date.
Outline proposals, agreed in principle between senior council officers and the developer, would see Section 106 monies generated in Acomb ward spent in Rural West York ward. The monies have to be paid by the developer to CYC and look set to fund sports facilities in Nether Poppleton, something Coun. Barnes has taken issue with.
Coun. Barnes, councillor for Acomb ward and deputy leader of the council’s Labour Group, said:
"I think it's disgraceful that there is such a shortage of public open space in Acomb and yet this area of playing field is currently fenced off to the public.
"I'm not at all happy at current proposals to see Acomb residents being expected to bear the brunt of proposed new housing on the British Sugar site while residents in Nether Poppleton are in line to see the benefits in the form of new sports facilities. This seems fundamentally unfair and I want to see plans brought forward as quickly as possible to develop part of the old Manor School playing fields into an open space that can be used by the community.
"I often hear from people on the doorstep and at community drop-in sessions that they or their kids are fed up at the lack of parks, open spaces and leisure facilities that are enjoyed by residents in other parts of the city. They want somewhere that can be used by everyone for their leisure, health and well-being. The current generation need positive action taking now”.
Coun. Barnes said he is meeting with a number of senior officers to discuss the matter on Wednesday this week and will put the case of residents very firmly, but added that the proposals could not wait until 2020 when the British Sugar site development gets underway. He said there was no reason the playing fields could not be progressed as leisure space now, separately to the plans for housing development.
The leisure space would be designed and developed following community consultation, and could include anything from tennis courts, football pitches or cricket nets, to an outdoor gym or play facilities.
“This really has to be a decision by the community for the community”, said Coun. Barnes. "What is clear though is that the money will be there to provide for a really good quality leisure space as more s106 payments associated with housing developments on the old Civil Service site are progressed. I hope this funding will be matched by support from senior officers and Councillors from the Tory and Lib Dem Executive, and that we can reach an agreement on a plan that can deliver for residents very soon”.
Councillor Barnes has established a petition online for residents of Acomb to sign and show their support for plans to convert part of the former playing fields into open community space. The petition can be found online at: http://chn.ge/2bdIdiP or via Twitter #AskAcomb