Campaigners Thank Community for Support in Battle for Access to Playing Fields and Seek Additional Funding for Legal Costs
(Note to editors – parental permission was obtained for the use of the pic of the 2 young sisters. RY).
CAMPAIGNERS who want access to playing fields where they live reinstated have thanked the community for contributing to their legal costs, but said they still need just under £1,000 to continue their battle.
They hope that a mediation process involving Swansea Council will lead to a number of access points being created along fencing which now surrounds the land by The Firs estate, Waunarlwydd.
The campaigners, Waunarlwydd Playing Fields Action Group, were angry and dismayed when the fencing was erected by a football club which had been granted a lease for the fields two years ago by the council. The club, Waunarlwydd Galaxy, had sought permission beforehand via the lease to put it up, saying it was needed to tackle vandalism and dog fouling.
The action group presented a petition to the council in February this year signed by more than 500 fence objectors, and legal representatives representing the group sent a “pre-action protocol” letter to the authority giving warning of a judicial review of the lease decision.
There has been correspondence between the two parties since then, and the action group has claimed on Facebook that it was now accepted that the fields were subject to a statutory trust and held for the benefit of the public as open space.
It has raised around £2,700 for legal expenses and needs a further £3,600 for further legal and mediation-related costs. Suzanne Jeffreys, a spokeswoman for the group, said just over £2,600 had been donated of late, meaning the group needed just under £1,000 to hopefully conclude the mediation process.
She said: “We want to thank people for donating – people who can least afford it,” she said. She said she was also grateful for the efforts of their solicitor, of Harrison Grant Ring, London.
Miss Jeffreys added that children living at The Firs who didn’t play for the football club just wanted to be able to run around on the fields, like they used to.
The action group said on Facebook that the aim was for everyone in Waunarlwydd to be able to freely use the land, as it claimed was their right. “Please donate whatever you can afford,” it said. “Times are hard , we appreciate money is tight.”
Speaking at the council meeting in February when the petition was handed in, Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said the granting of the lease to the football club had been “perfectly lawful”, as had been the erection of the fence.
Three opposition councillors said they felt further investigation of the matter was needed, but a majority of elected members decided that no further action was necessary. A council report presented at the meeting said: “On balance, it was acknowledged that whilst the fence restricted access for general open space use, it unlocked investment in sports facilities for the community and protected the space from further damage and hostile behaviours.”
After speaking to campaigners this week, the Local Democracy Reporting Service put the action group’s comments on Facebook to the council and asked if it accepted that the fenced-off land was in fact subject to a statutory trust and that public access should have been retained.
A council spokesman said: “We are working with both parties (campaigners and football club) to find a resolution that is acceptable to all.”
Waunarlwydd Galaxy – a community interest club – secured £6,000 from donations and received a further £6,000 from Sport Wales towards fencing costs for the two pitches it plays on. The club has also funded drainage work to improve the playing surface.
A spokesman for the club said the dispute was between the council and the campaigners, and that it was an interested party. “We hope a solution that everybody is happy with is found,” he said.
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