A PETITION to safeguard the future of Croft playing fields will be submitted to Swindon Council on Wednesday with calls for legal protection from developers building without consultation.
The fields are currently included in discussions regarding the long-term lease of the Croft Leisure Centre, along with the town’s other facilities, and there are worries there is not enough in place to stop developers building on the fields once they leave council control.
The petition, created by Pipers Area Residents’ Association (PARA), has now been signed by 1,800 people according to Colin Doubleday, chair of the association.
“We have shown that the local people are not happy and are not convinced of the safeguards that will keep this as an open space for the rest of time,” said Mr Doubleday.
“There needs to be something in place which ensures a special meeting, not just a conversation, when any plans would be in their formative stages, when they can still be changed.”
In April the cabinet member for leisure, Coun Keith Williams (Con, Shaw), said there were already measures in place to protect Croft fields in the long term from development.
“There is a covenant covering Croft fields which protects it as an open space and the council is not looking to have the land developed for money,” he said.
“If that were the case we could sell it now and get 100 per cent of the money but we do not want to. If people want to discuss their concerns with me directly, then I will be happy to do so.”
Mr Doubleday, however, has said he and the other supporters of the petition are not convinced this covenant provides an adequate reassurance for those concerned for the future of the green space.
“From our point of view, what we keep getting told is there are covenants which stop it being used for development,” he said.
“We are not reassured because the council themselves paid £100 to remove a covenant in 2011 when they were building Croft school. If they can get rid of a covenant as quickly and easily as that, we just don’t trust the covenant.”
PARA wants any decision on developing the land at Croft to be in the hands of the community. Mr Doubleday said planning protocols did not provide enough of a reassurance that the public would decide what, if anything, gets built and when.
“In 100, 50 or 25 years it may be the community changes its mind on development there but it should be the community deciding that, not the council on its own, or a developer, and certainly not a leisure developer, if they don’t think the Croft Leisure Centre is viable anymore.”
The petition will submitted at 4pm at the Civic Offices in Euclid Street.