FURY over Chichester District Council’s (CDC) refusal to support skate park plans in Petworth has led to a top level challenge.
Town councillors who said they were ‘shocked and disappointed’ are taking the decision to the Ombudsman.
They are also asking cabinet members to call in their decision for a rethink.
Reporting to a full meeting of the town council last night (Thursday, February 18) Roger Hanauer, who has been leading the project for members said he believed it was a ‘deeply flawed’ decision.
“CDC asked us to produce a feasibility study to confirm that there was a genuine need and also to demonstrate its viability. We did this and produced a comprehensive document which addressed all the issues.”
This was presented to the district council last November for scrutiny by professional officers.
They recommended support for the release of district council land at the Sylvia Beaufoy youth centre car park to build the skate park, said Mr Hanauer.
Their report was presented to cabinet on February 9 and Mr Hanauer attended to hear the debate.
“All our evidential work was rendered null and void when the officer’s recommendation was reversed very strangely after the publication of the agenda.
Cabinet members said they supported a skate park in the town but they had safety issues and asked the town council to explore new locations or look at an alternative youth provision - not wheeled sports - in the youth centre car park.
“Just to site the fact that is was in a car park as a major safety issue was a complete red herring,” said Mr Hanauer.
He said all the designs produced for the town council fully met ROSPA compliance and the issue of safety had been addressed in detail in the town council’s feasibility study.
“It was patently obvious to me that few if any of the cabinet members had actually taken the trouble to look at the any part of the study or visited the site.
“They were very reactionary and some comments made, were frankly risible.
“It was almost embarrassing to hear them follow each other up with the bland comments ‘it’s not safe because it’s in a car park’.
He said the negativity from the management committee at the Sylvia Beaufoy had been ‘very sad’.
“Clive Fish, chairman said although they were not prepared to support us, they would not oppose us.”
Mr Hanauer said he was also angry that two letters of opposition to the skate park plans had been introduced in the debate which he felt should have been brought up at the planning application stage.
“No-one had the good grace to inform us the recommendation had been reversed and some of the statements made at the meeting were embarrassing in their naivete.
“It seems strange the cabinet members took it upon themselves to countermand what the professional officers had advised them to do..
“Planning permission for a skate park was granted on that site in 2003.
“What has changed since then? In my view this was very biased and unfair conduct and I think it should be challenged by all available means.”
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