9:17am Friday 16th August 2013
By Gary Bills-Geddes
HANDS off our recreation ground is the overwhelming message this week from irate townspeople.
Locals are divided over a proposed supermarket in the LawnsideRoadareabut avast majority are adamant they don’t want any development on the recreation ground.
Now a community bid has been launched to save key buildings and the recreation ground from developers.
As we reported last week, PLK Properties wants to build a 30,000 sq ft supermarket in the area, demolishing buildings such as the youth centre and swimming pool.
Under the proposals a new joint swimming pool, community centre and youth club complex would be built at the Orchard Lane end of the recreation ground, together with an outdoor multiuse games area.
PLK said it had been in talks with Sainsbury’s but this week the supermarket giant ruled itself out.
But moves by the Ledbury Town Plan Steering Group could throw a spanner in the works.
It is making a community bid to buy the recreation ground, Lawnside Road car park, swimming pool, youth centre, the community hall and memorial gardens. It could also bid for the fire station if it comes on the market.
The group is chaired by town and county councillor Liz Harvey. She said: “If it comes off, we – the community – will be given a seat at the table when it comes to negotiations.” All of the listed assets, called blocks, have been nominated by the group for a Community Right to Bid, under the Localism Act of 2011.
If the nominations are successful, the group will have six weeks to decide whether it wishes to bid for any or all of the blocks, and then six months to find enough money to make exclusive bids.
Asked whether the community would be able to find such considerable sums of money, Coun Harvey said: “We can only do what we can do with our community hats on. We need to set up a finance vehicle to enable us to find funds from the community and other sources.”
Philip King of PLK Properties said of the campaign: “I’m not sure where they would get the finances from. It is something that would come out in the wash, when we engage with the community, something we are about to do.”
The campaign could stumble if Herefordshire Council, as the planning authority, chooses to use compulsory purchase orders (CPO) to secure the Lawnside site, including the ground.
A spokesman said: “Having the recreation ground listed as a community asset does not prevent the area’s sale.”
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group