The poll was necessary because the result of the public meeting in January 2012 was completely discredited by the Parish Council's falsehoods. It denied that the skatepark would be in the South Downs National Park when it had been told by the Park Authority that it would be. It described the facility as "small". It is now massively bigger. It said it would not think of going ahead if the usual noise criteria could not be complied with. The experts all agree that these criteria cannot be complied with.
27/11/2013 The Poll Result
Turn out 32%
No 703 (46.3% of those voting)
Yes 816 (53.7% of those voting)
We think that if the question approved by the Parish Council had not been misleading, and if the Parish Council's public statements and the Chairman of the Parish Council's news letter had not also been misleading then the majority might well have been the other way.
In any event, this result gives us a powerful mandate to continue to express our concerns about the project - up 'til now dismissed by the Parish Council as carping from a vociferous tiny minority.
Our leaflet sets out some of these concerns and why we had hoped for a no result.
The supporters' commentary, full of distortions, on our leaflet is set out below. We give our rebuttal in italics.
The Poll wording was
"Do you want Steyning Parish Council to provide a skatepark in the Memorial Playing Field, incorporating the existing asphalt strip, located near the Rublees Allotments boundary?"
We think this wording, chosen by the supporters, was deliberately misleading in implying that the overall development is about the same size as the asphalt strip.
In fact it is nearly SIX times the size.
The Supporters commented on our leaflet.
Their intemperate and unsubstantiated claims are set out below along with our comments in rebuttal.
"You will by now have received a leaflet from the Friends of Memorial Playing Field (FoMPF) which demonstrates the lengths to which they will go to STOP the Parish Council from providing a skatepark for our young people. It demonstrates clearly their perceptions of, and attitude to, Steyning children (who have no vote on something that affects them personally).
**The oft-repeated slur that those who object to a skatepark in the wrong place are thereby against children. Just plain offensive.**
The FoMPF leaflet speaks of URBAN INTRUSION in describing a skatepark for our children. The council's skatepark plan is well-designed and will be used by all ages of children from 4years to 14+ using little scooters, bikes and skateboards.
**“Well designed?” That is what the writer claimed about the last design which has had to be completely re-designed because the Parish Council failed to take into account the lie of the land and did not realise that the resulting bunds would be massive and run counter to police and HDC landscape requirements.
The mistake is being repeated. Neither the public nor the Council has any idea what the thing will look like as it has not commissioned any visualisations or given any heights for the bund. What is certain is that it has failed to comply with the HDC landscape officer’s requirements. SPC has just been directed to provide proper visualisations for the planning committee. Why have they not done this long ago?**
There is a clear anti-child rhetoric throughout their claims, even to the extent of showing the proposed fencing, to protect children from dog fouling and 'stranger danger' in the play area, as an example of how the council's plans are encroaching on the play area. How can any sane person object to a protective fence around children's play areas to demarcate and protect them from dog fouling (and not least preventing strangers entering in, or children straying out?).
**The offensive tone and assumptions continue. The fencing has been shown, not because it is objected to, but to show that the claim by supporters that the existing pitch can be moved slightly is not possible. The plan shows clearly that the existing pitch is taken up to the halfway point by the bunding – giving the lie to the supporters’ claims that no pitch will be affected and to the Parish Council chairman’s claim that the skatepark will be located in an area where pitch-based sport is not possible.**
The leaflet shows despoiled graffiti-covered playpark equipment elsewhere with spacemen-type men cleaning them.
**Have a look at the surrounding walls at the Hove site. Remember the temporary skateboard van with its graffiti logo. Graffiti is part of the urban culture associated with skateboarding.**
It shows £10 notes burning, suggesting that the skatepark will be 'a drain on tax payers'. We all know there are grants available with no annual lease payments if the skatepark built in the MPF.
**There is no provision for running costs – maintenance, administration, insurance, weekly inspections, additional grass-cutting costs, capital amortisation, CCTV administration, capital cost of toilets, running costs of toilets, capital cost of new CCTV system etc.**
The painting by the artist Edvard Munch, 'The Scream', is also depicted to suggest that this will be the effect on residents, when the facility is nowhere near local people. Indeed it is well within the World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations concerning noise nuisance.
**It breaches WHO requirements for open leisure spaces. It also breaches the other two limbs of the conventional test of which the WHO regulation this supporter refers to is the third limb. The conventional test is used by planning authorities across the land to predict acceptability. All three limbs have to be satisfied as a holistic test. Passing just one is insufficient. Both the Council’s expert (Atkins) and the FoMPF expert (Saunders), each with vast experience of advising authorities on skateparks predict that the existing very quiet location is unsuitable. The Council originally promised the public meeting that it “would not think” of going ahead in that situation. **
All this is reprehensible enough, but they also have a full page allocated to downright misinformation. It is unbelievable that there can be no legal redress from the various groups and societies who are named here as either SUPPORTERS of the FoMPF or OBJECTORS to the skatepark, when many have clearly stated in the press, or elsewhere, that they are neutral ( to avoid conflict within their societies, where people are respected for whatever views they hold).
**This supporter does not wish to accept that every one of the organisations listed in the FoMPF leaflet has written an objection letter, in some cases more than one, which can be inspected on the HDC planning website**
It is hoped that the groups who have been used in this way will make their annoyance known to the FoMPF. Three specific groups need to be mentioned: The Steyning Society, the Cricket Club and Strikers. All three hold a neutral stance, but the Strikers, in particular, have had to tell the FoMPF that they must NOT keep saying that their club will lose playing space due to the skatepark.( See the FoMPF's scaled illustration in their leaflet). Strikers have told them this is blatantly untrue, BUT they keep using it in their ant-skatepark publicity. Sport England have also been told about all the misinformation they have received from the FoMPF and are now re-examining the FoMPF's submissions to them.
**This supporter must be deliberately misrepresenting the situation given the long exchange of views just completed on the Facebook site. The scaled illustration shows the pitch exactly as currently marked out. This is also in accordance with what the Strikers told the Parish Council just one year ago and which is shown in the Parish Council minutes. This plan also shows that the Parish Council’s claim that the location is unsuitable for pitch-based sports is untrue. Sport England are not concerned with the Striker’s currently expressed requirements, but with the existing and predictable future requirements of the community. We have never claimed to speak on behalf of the Strikers and the leaflet does not do so.**
Other issues raised by FoMPF in their leaflet refers to noise nuisance but they fail to say that all tests have been carried out by the council's Noise Engineers and show they fall within World Health Organisation's guidelines. Notwithstanding this, further tests are planned by the council in their review of the application going to HDC.
**Again this supporter is deliberately misrepresenting the position. The Council’s own expert, Atkins, predicts categorically that the skatepark will be unacceptable because it is too close to housing in a location which is currently “very quiet”. The only expert who predicted it was ok did so on the basis of a unique methodology recognised by no other authority and based on noise readings which had been deliberately corrupted by some supporters. That is why the Council is arranging new readings at yet more expense to the community**
The FoMPF make great play about the bunds describing them as unsightly heaps (again untrue). They know that these have been reduced on the recommendations of experts who say they will not be necessary. Any remaining smaller bunds will be carefully landscaped and fit in with the natural surroundings. We should trust our youth and they will reward us with responsible behaviour.
**The bunds have been changed because the proper scaled visualisations commissioned by the FoMPF and which should have been commissioned by the Council, showed that they could not be built. The police and the landscape officer objected. One single expert (not “experts” as claimed) has concluded that bunds are not required for noise attenuation (the expert who has a unique methodology and who based his conclusions on corrupted readings). This “careful” landscaping does not accord with the HDC landscape officer’s requirements and the Council has, again, omitted to provide the public with any visualisations to show what it will look like. They do not know themselves and so this supporter’s claim is based on nothing more than conjecture but is belied by the landscape officer’s recommendations**
The council has, within their plans, a scheme to give true ownership to our children in running the facility with adult help and overseeing committees. We have more faith in our young people than the FoMPF seem to have.
**The Council has just been told that its so-called management plan is inadequate in relying on expressions of hope rather than enforceable provisions. It has been directed to think again.**
How must our children feel when they read what a group of people say about them in this disgraceful Poll Leaflet? The FoMPF appear to be writing off a whole generation as untrustworthy, and not deserving of a play space to practice a recognised sport to keep them healthy and fit. All children do not want to be involved in team games and a skatepark will give those children a chance to express their skills and socialise together. Steyning has plenty of societies and clubs for the older generation but precious little for our youth.
**The Leisure Centre site is clearly the best place for this. One of the problems is that the very body which has experience of these things, the Grammar School, has huge reservations about the conduct of those who would use the skatepark and hence the basis of some of its objections.**
The FoMPF criticise the council for adding car parking bays to the plan to accommodate disability, Their leaflet makes it sound as if there is going to be a huge car park. There will be TWO bays. Disability considerations was something required by HDC at the planning stage.
**Disability was completely ignored by the Council in its “well designed” plans. The car parking was tacked on at the last minute when WE pointed out the breach of the Equality Act. The HDC landscape officer’s objections about this have not been addressed. Nor have the National Parks statutory purposes.**
However, FoMPF do not reveal that their own Leisure Centre plan creates 20+ car parking spaces, would have uprooted mature trees and was in close proximity to their caged facility. Cars and children don't mix. This would have been off the busy Horsham Road, hidden behind the Leisure Centre and where the police had concerns. However, they know that site is a total non-starter BUT they still persist in putting it forward as a possibility, when everyone knows the school and all stakeholders oppose it. An example of more deceit.
**Again this offensive presumption as to the motivation of others. The Friends have been genuine in their attempts to get the skatepark built at what is the best site on any objective measurement. A great deal of time and money has been spent in advancing this alternative at the Leisure Centre and it is looking very likely that there will be a planning consent. The only objector is the School which is key. It is a community school and its pupils will be the main beneficiaries. A joint approach by supporters and objectors might well have led to a change of heart by the School. Naturally it will maintain its objections while the MPF site is a “runner”. If the MPF is abandoned after the poll then the supporters may wish to change their opposition to this site and join with the objectors to jointly promote the Leisure Centre site.**
They say there will be floodlighting of the skatepark in the future. This has not been part of any plan, now or in the future, the council has for the facility.
**Weasily words? We have all heard politicians say they “have no plan” for something; only for it to appear a short time later. In any event we did not say there "would be" - we said it was a threat**
They say it will have an adverse effect on the sport amenities in the MPF when it clearly won't. They claim a football pitch will be encroached upon when they know Strikers Football Club have told them over and over again that it won't. They try to deceive by showing the skatepark encroaching onto the football pitch.
**Deception by the Friends? The pitch is marked out on the ground at this very moment. Anyone can go up there and pace out the skatepark using the Council’s own measurements. This supporter is asking us to deny what we can all see with our own eyes. And then accuses us of deception. Our Google Earth view shows exactly the impact of the facility on the existing pitch**
They still write about Toilet Facilities. People using the park NOW have not demanded such facilities, including those using the children's play area. It is not something one sees at skatepark facilities elsewhere in our locality. However, the Parish Council has put this in their plan to HDC (circulated recently). The toilet facilities on site can be adapted for public use.
**The planners have told the Council that toilet facilities will be required. The Council has equivocated about what it intends, claiming variously that it is considering building next to the existing, that the existing can be used, that it is going to adapt the existing, that it intends doing nothing. It has now been told that it must give a clear commitment in the planning application – something it has conspicuously omitted to do so far. It has no budget to build, maintain, open and close or keep clean any new or adapted toilets.**
The FoMPF cite crime and anti-social behaviour, when the opposite is the case in police reports when skateparks are provided. Steyning is a place where we have fantastic young people. There should not be this negative attitude towards them. They must feel very hurt by these disgraceful attacks on them as a group. They are always at the forefront of charity fund-raising and were again evident in the appeals for 'Children in Need' and previous charities including 'Comic Relief' and various disaster fund -raising.
**The fact that the police themselves and the Crime and Disorder Act require these issues to be addressed and that they have not been addressed to the satisfaction of the police or the planners so far is something the supporters need to address – not shoot the messenger and try to divert attention away with these emotive statements which have nothing to do with the issue. Again, the arrogant and offensive implication that only those who share this supporter's views are good parents, grandparents etc. etc.**
FoMPF cite First-Aid as an issue when they know full well their comments are red herrings. Do they really expect such facilities everywhere they go? Is it expected when you go for a stroll on the Downs, go to a playground, sit by a river and fish, go for a cycle ride that there will be First Aid nearby??They mention the skatepark's 'remoteness' in terms of safety and danger but at the same time its 'proximity' to other park users. They can't have it both ways.
**This is just getting ridiculous. Read the RoSPA guidelines and objections. A skatepark is inherently dangerous and during quiet times such as weekday evenings there is a very real risk of serious injury going unnoticed. That does not mean that local residents, allotment holders and other users will not be unreasonably disturbed by noise at other times.**
The FoMPF claim the council has asked “dog walkers and other users to police the skatepark". That is grossly untrue as well. All that has been said is “there is good casual surveillance of the facility". That in no way suggests what the FoMPF is clearly trying to imply. There is casual surveillance in any public space, including wardens and general park users.
**Who by and how are the opening hours going to be enforced? Ditto excessive noise from sound systems. Battery-operated floodlights. Use on bright night/ under-age drinking etc. **
They say the Parish Council "intends to tarmac the public footpath from the Bowls Club (Mill Road) towards the Downs" and” encourage possible further development". Again, this is untrue, the only area for surfacing is from the two disabled parking bays to the skatepark.
**In fact, the original and the amended Design and Access statements lodged with the planners both say that the track from Mill Road will be tarmacked. It is the “approved access route” for skaters. Disabled visitors not in vehicles are also expected to approach by this route. It is currently impassable except in wellingtons or the like after rain. Tarmacking is the only way it can be used for the purposes intended. **
They mention 'Heritage' being ignored in terms of loss of tourism. Yet it is well known that towns die if they are not used. Families coming in to use the skatepark will use the town for shopping and refreshments. This, is a positive side effect, and will help trade and bring increasing life to Steyning.
**The Heritage report prepared by the County Council makes plain that developments such as this will have a negative effect on the MPF and hence on the Town generally. The MPF should be marketed as a gateway to the National Park – that is the way to increase tourism – and high-spending tourism from long-distance visitors from home and abroad.**
As regards their comments about wildlife and the protection of the 'Ancient Rublees' hedge this is a nonsense. They know the evidence and have been told enough times that ecologists’ reports have clearly stated this area is NOT noted for its bio-diversity or listed as a protected area. It needs to be said that it will not be affected in any case by the work to be carried out there in building the skatepark.
**The Rublees hedgerow is “protected” under the Hedgerow Regulations. It is threatened because the skatepark is to be built close to it in breach of RoSPA requirements. Leaves coming onto the skatepark are a well–recognised health and safety risk and so cutting back the hedgerow is likely to be required by the Council’s insurers.**
The National Park has expressed no problems with the Council's plan and said it would "not call it in". Why do FoMPF keep mentioning it? To mislead is the answer.
**This supporter knows this is untrue. The situation has now been explained many times. The National Park test of “calling in” for its planning department to deal with instead of HDC as its agent (typically used for major road and mining activities) is absolutely nothing to do with the merits. The Park Authority has made it crystal clear that the judgment about the tension between the National Park purposes and the desire to build is one for HDC and SPC alone to resolve and must be done in the context of the National Park statutory purposes. This has just been confirmed by a senior High Court judge (the former solicitor-general) who went out of his way to warn that the National Park purposes still needed to be properly considered. This is presumably why SPC has issued a press release saying it finally intends to meet with HDC and the Park Authority. Extraordinary that it has refused to do so prior to this.**
The whole FoMPF leaflet is a collection of untruths and misrepresentation of the facts and based on misconceptions of what a skatepark achieves in a community.
They make odious comparisons between underprivileged urban areas and our town which bear no resemblance to the truth. You only had to look at our Steyning youth at the Skatepark Picnic Day to see what a wonderful group of children they are, right from the youngest to the oldest, helpful, considerate and outgoing young people.
Please don't forget what enjoyment a few simple ramps on a tarmac strip brought everyone on that Sunday in September.
**The supporter is now getting breathless and carried away with his emotive and offensive claims that only he knows what is best for our young folk and that only supporters can appreciate the good of our young people. This is about a skatepark in the wrong location. Nothing more, nothing less.**
The final hypocritical comment that the FoMPF leaflet makes is breathtaking for its deception and duplicity - " The FoMPF supports a skatepark for our young people BUT". They have used every means possible to prevent it happening and even put in a plan for the Leisure Centre/Grammar School claiming it would have facilities to cover all objections. They say this when they KNOW perfectly well it will NEVER happen there. All stakeholders have rejected that site and the application currently with HDC, with approval or not, will NEVER be built there. They used the same offer in their by-election campaign in the summer to dupe the community.
**Opposition by the supporters certainly reinforces the School’s stance and increasingly the comments of this supporter and others like him diminishes the likelihood of persuading a change of heart. One only has to look at the minutes of the Council’s working group and the earlier correspondence (on the FoMPF website) to see how the Council itself and all stakeholders were once enthusiastic and saw the Leisure Centre area as a real opportunity, only for this to gradually wither in the face of lack of support from those who want a skatepark. NEVER is a very long time and with a planning consent, and the recent relaxation in space requirements for schools, there remains a real prospect of making it happen at the Leisure Centre; the site the skaters themselves wanted as the best site just a few years ago.**
For over two years they have attacked your Parish Council, used money-wasting litigation in the High Court (rejected by judges), sought governance reviews, appealed and had appeals rejected, used the Freedom of Information Act to inundate the council with an excessive and stressful burden of work The Freedom of Information Commissioner found in favour of the Council when the FoMPF complained to them. Every avenue they have used to thwart the wishes of our children has been rejected by the courts and even their attempt to call a Parish Meeting (in Springwells and later in a gazebo in the garden of a supporter) was declared unlawful.
**The judge did not “reject” the case; indeed he went out of his way to confirm that an important public service had been done in drawing attention to the National Park purposes and he made plain that it was only court resources which meant the merits of the matter should not be considered until after the planning application – as to which he went out of his way to direct the planners to ensure that the National Park purposes were given proper weight - as that had not occurred at the previous planning committee hearing.
As for the FoI Commissioner – Steyning Parish Council has just been directed within 28 days to make its case to the First Tier Tribunal as it appears to have deliberately misled the ICO, including by falsely describing courtesy copies of emails to other parties GIVING information as FoI requests. False information it has also passed to this supporter and given at Parish Council meetings.**
The stress councillors have been placed under has been intolerable. They give their time and energy working for the community and this is what they have been suffering under for two years. Who will want to volunteer for community-minded work when the very democratic fabric of Steyning is attacked in such a blatant and aggressive way?
Our children deserve better than this. It only succeeds in giving them the example of how bullies behave untruths and deceit achieve the result FoMPF have sought for two years. If the skatepark plan is defeated then democracy has been destroyed in Steyning and this small vociferous group will have put an unhealable rift in our town for years to come. Perhaps even a rift between our youth and the older generation, (many of us are senior citizens who have been trying to support and speak up for them) will be the result of the FoMPF's appalling campaign.
This will particularly hurt our children who have had no voice in this whole debate, except for the people who have tried truthfully to let their voices be heard through democratic debate and reasoned argument. The entrenched opinions of the FoMPF’s can never be persuaded to see the justice in giving a play space for our young people in a location, safe and secure which was specifically purchased for them.
Debate and democracy is a wonderful thing when truth, power of argument and persuasion are used BUT it is very difficult to counter misinformation and allegations based on bigoted propaganda. Wars have been fought for the protection of the disenfranchised and disinherited.
When a poll result depends on people's perception of what is true or false and tactics that conceal reality, then truth and respect are the losers but our Steyning youth could be the biggest losers of all.
**This rant would be persuasive if it was true and did not turn the real situation on its head. All of the FoMPF arguments have been backed up by careful research and source documentation and can be seen on our website. Meanwhile those opposing the scheme have been vilified at Parish meetings and subjected to a campaign of bullying. The project has got this far only because of the deceit of the Parish Council, again documented on our website but starting with denying the skatepark was in the National Park when it knew that it was within, assuring it would not think of going ahead if the conventional noise criteria were not satisfied but then pressing on regardless, to its most recent claim that the area was unfit for pitch based sport when we can all see a pitch marked out there today. Much more in between can be seen on our website.
High in rhetoric – low in facts and evidence. And they accuse us of a lack of integrity!
The supporters leaflet is now doing the rounds.
"A generation grown up without a skatepark".
Doesn't seem to have done them much harm - though the Supporters' Facebook page makes the bizarre and wild assertion that "A lack of adequate Skateparks is one of the easiest ways to turn kids onto criminals"
MPF is "the only possible location"
The Leisure Centre Site is the best location by far. We all (supporters and opponents of the MPF site) need to fight to make it happen there.
"A family-friendly, secure and safe place for all ages"
RoSPA do not agree - many of their safety recommendations are breached
Police do not agree - they require enhanced CCTV for this remote location
We do not agree - dog walkers and others are expected to police this remote location which is likely to morph into a something very different as the light fades.
"..National Park Consulted - no issues raised"
The Park has not been consulted since the first, very different, plans - when the National Parks officer did not know that the skatepark was to be within the NP boundary.