SKATEBOARDERS in Swindon have weighed into the raging debate over where to build one of the biggest skate parks in the town, as a consultation has begun on three potential sites.

Plans to construct the £60,000 park on the old Saltway school fields were withdrawn in September to await a noise report, while residents voiced their objections, with 80 complaints being lodged.

After considering a list of 20 potential sites around West Swindon, the council has now recommended Saltway Fields, Rivermead, and Shaw Ridge to go to public consultation.

Arthur Beltrami, 76, of Sparcells, has fought the plans since they were introduced for Saltway, and said ahead of the consultation: “If they do bring Saltway back onto the table with 80 residents against and one for, it would be shocking.”

Peter Corrie, 49, of Sparcells, said: “The consultation is a farce, and the skate park will go ahead at Saltway no matter what.

“We expected Saltway to be included on the shortlist, and it seems like nothing will be done to stop it going ahead there.”

But skateboarders have spoken of the real need for the park. Mark James, 19, of Highworth, helped with the design of the project, and has hit back at allegations of anti-social behaviour.

“Skateboarders in Swindon do not have a decent skate park,” he said. “The ones we have are just not up to scratch.

“A lot of them have old-style ramps which move around, and get really slippery. This would be much safer.

“We are not going there to make trouble, and skateboarding is not going to be done after it is dark. If things are going to be done after dark it will be done if there is a skate park there or not.

“There may be skate parks in Swindon but none like this. It is not just about the size, it is also about the quality.”

Martin Hambridge, parks manager at Swindon Council, said: “The main criteria in approving the selected sites was in terms of distance to housing.

Saltway Fields is the only site that has an unlimited line of sight for police supervision.

Mayor Nick Martin (Con, Shaw), proposed the original plans for the site at Saltway.

“We have defended Saltway from house building, and it took a bit of arm wrestling from our group to save it.,” he said.

“We have introduced five-a-side pitches around West Swindon, and now police reports find the typical crime rate is down because the young people have somewhere to go.”

The consultation began on 12 November and will run until 15 December. A drop in session will be held on 30 November at the Link Library from 11am to 2pm, and the outcome will be reported back to residents on 13 January.