New lobby group of Saffron Walden sports clubs to pressure district council into providing more playing fields

09:53 12 June 2014

Twelve Saffron Walden sports clubs have teamed up for the inaugural meeting of a new group which will lobby for more facilities in the town.

Essex county councillor for Saffron Walden, John Lodge, formed the body to pressure Uttlesford District Council (UDC) into providing increased sports provision such as playing fields.

He said Saffron Walden had only one third of the outdoor playing facilities and children’s play area facilities recommended by the National Playing Fields Association, “making it difficult for residents to take necessary exercise and leading to the likelihood of greater health issues”.

Cllr Lodge told the Reporter UDC could rectify the situation by either seeking contributions from developers or using money from the Government’s New Homes Bonus scheme. This sees councils awarded grant money in exchange for building houses.

He said: “I’m doing this as a catalyst to get people together to lobby for the district council to step up to the plate and provide the sports provision that is needed.

“The town’s sports organisations will speak for themselves but I want all their voices to be heard.”

Clubs due to send a representative to the meeting include Saffron Walden Town FC, the town’s rugby and cricket clubs, Saffron Walden Skate Group, Saffron Seals, Plantation FC, Spartak 78 and Saffron Walden Hockey Club. A member of Saffron Walden Town Council was also expected to attend.

Cllr Lodge, a member of campaign group WeAreResidents.org, was 
left frustrated by UDC’s decision to adopt a new planning guide in which developers of new housing are 
not asked for any contribution for sports pitches or other sports facilities.

UDC’s draft Local Plan, which sets out development across the district between 2011-2031, would adopt the same policy for the next 17 years, Cllr Lodge claimed.

In response, a UDC spokesman said: “The draft Local Plan – which is a plan for the whole of Uttlesford and not just Saffron Walden – is explicit about the provision of sports facilities, playing pitches, allotments and natural/semi natural green space, as well as protecting what we have already. WeAreResidents.org’s interpretation of the plan is quite baffling.”

Cabinet member with responsibility for community engagement, Howard Rolfe, said the council was setting up a new initiative called the ‘Sports Network’. It will be in a similar format to Cllr Lodge’s proposal, with all the major movers and shakers from the town’s sports clubs involved, and the first meeting has been arranged for June 18.

The lobby group was due to hold its inaugural meeting last night (Wednesday) at the Herbert’s Farm pavilion.

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