Soft play area plans on the back burner for the moment

Residents living close to a proposed multi-use games area for Dunstable might object to such a project even if it was the best site locally, a meeting heard.

Choosing a suitable location in the town is one of the hurdles to be overcome, along with finding the necessary funding for the development, the annual town meeting was told.

There is no fixed agenda for this event, which gives local people the chance to voice any concerns or ask questions about town council activities.

Dunstable resident Alan Daniels referred to an objective of the local authority’s corporate plan for a feasibility study to see where council-owned land or public open space could be restored or converted into a games area.

“This study is due to be completed by March 2023, just before the next election is held,” he said.

“The newly-elected council could veto whatever result it produces.

“As the current council has included the item in the corporate plan, shouldn’t it make the decision to implement the outcome?” he wondered.

“With events curtailed this year because of the pandemic, surely the council staff have the time to do the work involved within the next 12 months?”

Town clerk David Ashlee asked where Mr Daniels would like the multi-use games area situated.

“Our park on Jeans Way would be a perfect place for me,” Mr Daniels replied. “I would like to see more of this in Dunstable, so it wouldn’t worry me where.

“But the park in east Dunstable would be ideal because we have very little there currently.”

Mr Ashlee said: “Items on the corporate plan with a future completion date usually get put there when we don’t have any obvious funding streams.

“We buy ourselves some time to acquire the resources for whatever we might like to build.

“It’s not a question of having staff to carry out the study, as it’s fairly straightforward.

“We’ve only got so many parks and open spaces, and even fewer which would reasonably accommodate a multi-use games area.

“You might like it in the park next to you, but I can assure you a lot of the residents next to that park wouldn’t want it there.

“So it’s always a little controversial where you might put such an area,” he explained.

“I assure you we’ll take whatever opportunity arises to establish a multi-use games area in one of our parks and open spaces.

“I would like to think that would be done before the end of March 2023 or even by the end of 2022.”

Multi-use games areas can come in many different shapes and sizes, added the town clerk.

“You can spend as much money as you want on one. We just want enough money to create a good facility.

“If you look at our skate park, our splash park, our cycling track and Creasey Park, all the investments the council makes tend to be very good in terms of the size of the town.”

Councillor Liz Jones, who chairs the council’s grounds and environmental services committee, said: “We’ll do it as soon as we can, as it’s something planned for quite a while.”

Mayor Peter Hollick assured Mr Daniels about his reference to council staff having more time available that “they’ve been working extremely hard during this past year”.