Councillors clash over decision to halt new play area in Shoebury

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A decision not to approve a new play area in Shoebury has been questioned by councillors who felt residents have been let down.

The play area plan for Shoebury Common Road was thrown out by councillors last month over fears that building it close to a busy road would put children in danger.

The refusal came despite councillors working with residents to put together the plans.

On Thursday, Councillor Tony Cox (Con) said he was “bitterly disappointed” by the decision and questioned claims made by members of the development committee that the park would have been better placed on the south side rather than north.

He said: “If anybody knows the south side and those on development control committee would have done a site visit – the south side is a car park. If you were going to move it there you would put it slap bang in the middle of a car park. Surely that is less safe than on the north side whereby at least people would be able to walk to it and safely cross the road.

“I hope this comes back to development control addressing some of these points.”

Cllr Daniel Cowan (Lab) also called the committee’s decision into question.

He said: “I was one of the few who voted to approve this scheme and I share the disappointment of residents that they will not have a playground that they desperately want.

“This was something done in consultation with local residents and found to be overwhelmingly in favour among local community.

“As a father of two young children safety around play areas is something I take a personal interest in but I do worry about some of the planning decisions we make and some of the ground because we do have parks all across the town on busy roads.

“Chalkwell Park is on the A13, you have the park next to St Stephens Church which backs on to Manners Way which is very busy and has high accident data over five or six years.

“So I share the disappointment of residents and sincerely hope I get the opportunity to look at another scheme there, and have opportunity to come to more favourable decision.”

But Cllr Steven Wakefield (Ind) strongly defended refusing planning permission, telling councillors that his priority is the safety of children.

“In the summer months it is mighty busy on that road and it is getting busier and busier and busier every year. You have a main road where there are cars going at time 60mph even though there would be a pelican crossing.

“I am not against putting play areas up, but I am against putting children’s lives at risk.”

Planning documents described it as “a new and exciting play park” for children up to the age of 14 with three designed areas for different age groups.

A report from the council’s planning team recommended councillors approve the plans and noted no objections were raised by the highways team.

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]