JCH History and Current Use

REPORT from the Clerk/RFO to Lydiard Millicent Parish Council (LMPC), detailing possible future usage of Jubilee Club House and Recreation Field.

 

Purpose:

This report is to aid members in making an informed decision on the future direction of the Recreation Field, and in particular the Cricket Square. Members will be asked to debate and reach a conclusion at this meeting.

Background, Football and Cricket:

It is understood the Recreation Field was gifted to the parish by a local family in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s, as part of development in the area. It is further understood the field was to allow for residents and others to play sport and take exercise. Football is played regularly on the field, with generally one club only hiring the pitches between September and May; there has been a Cricket Square sited at the Recreation Field for many years. Written records can confirm both sports going back at least twenty years. Originally Shaw Football Club and Lydiard Millicent Cricket Club used the facilities. Purton Cricket Club used the Square after the dissolution of the Lydiard Millicent teams, and Lydiard Millicent Junior Football Club has now replaced Shaw.

During recent years the cricket square has fallen into disuse, the square being roped off and allowed to deteriorate. Discussions were held with a local team in 2014 to bring the square back into a playing condition but this did not progress due to internal problems at the interested Cricket Club. Increasingly in Wiltshire, grass cricket squares are being replaced with artificial ones, which are reported to be cheaper and easier to maintain; although cricket teams much prefer to play on a grass wicket. It is accepted by owners of grass cricket squares that it is very difficult to break even, and generally make a loss each year; although it is not yet clear that using an artificial wicket will allow costs to be recovered more easily over the long term.

The Jubilee Club House

A purpose built set of changing rooms, together with a meeting room, at a cost of £200,000 was opened at the Recreation Field in November 2002. This was to replace the original wooden pavilion which was burnt down due to an arson attack in October 1997. Funding for the project came from grants (Biffa Waste, Football Foundation & NWDC), and the Parish Council through tax. A condition of the Football Foundation Grant was that yearly figures were submitted detailing use of the changing rooms and football pitches; this condition has now come to an end, although periodically a questionnaire is sent to the Council for completion.

Since its opening, this facility (which contains four communal changing rooms – two with communal showers, two Referee Changing Rooms – with shower, a meeting room, kitchen, storeroom, plus Gents, Ladies and Disabled toilets) has never been used to its full potential. This appears to be due, in the past, to complaints from local residents about the unruly behaviour and noise on the site.

 

The Recreation Field Generally

 

The Recreation Field also has a fenced area set aside for a Petanque Court, and enclosed Play Area with play equipment suitable for children up to age 10 years. The field is also used to exercise dogs; initially there was a sign at the entrance instructing owners to keep pets on a lead and only use the perimeter of the field. (No evidence of a byelaw requiring this can be found for this piece of land.)

The field is accessed via a gated driveway and car park, which has 50 spaces. There is pedestrian access to the site at all times; the gate is only open when the building is being used.

 

Recent Interest in Playing Cricket

In early 2017 a local Cricket Club approached the chairman of LMPC requesting use of the neglected square as they were short of playing time at their own ground. Discussions were held between the LMPC chairman and Cricket Club, resulting in some remedial work taking place. At the time this work was carried out Councillors were led to believe the Cricket Club would provide voluntary labour to keep the square in a playable condition, and very little input, apart from the land, was needed from LMPC. As discussions continued it became apparent this was not the case. A contractor (supplied by the Cricket Club) carried out work on the square at a cost to the Parish Council of £2,400+VAT. In order for this work to be successful, the square needed constant watering and tending, this was carried out by two Parish Councillors. As it became clear that voluntary help to maintain the square was not available (from either the interested cricket team or from local residents) a decision was taken by the Council to stop further improvement works and arrange for the square to be basically tended by the Councils grass cutting contractors. This approach, although incurring some small further cost, allowed for the initial improvements not to be wasted.

The cricket square was not used in 2017. At the beginning of this year (2018) another local Cricket Team approached Parish Councillors wishing to use the Recreation Field and Cricket Square during the 2018 season. They were invited to view the site, and consider its suitability. On inspection by a Cricket Square groundsman and players from the team, it has been stated the square is satisfactory for play up to Division 3 standard in this summer season. It is not considered the extra work suggested by the original contractor is needed, the prospective team has arranged for some pre-season maintenance to be carried out at their own expense in the hope that LMPC will agree to cricket being played during the summer months.

The Open Spaces WG has been investigating various scenarios and other Cricket Teams have come forward expressing an interest in using this facility; a report of their findings is attached (included as a further appenix to the EGM online).

Current Usage of the Recreation Field and Building

LMPC converted the inside storeroom into a Parish Office in March 2016. The Clerk now works from this room, and it is open regularly to the public on a Tuesday afternoon and Thursday morning. Lydiard Millicent Junior Football Club use the whole site Sundays between September and May, they have also recently been granted permission to use two pitches on a Saturday morning throughout the season.

The Petanque Court was booked during the summer by local teams, and there is currently a singing group who hire the Club House on a Monday and Wednesday evening. Currently there are no other paid bookings; the Council Working Group meetings and Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group meeting are held free of charge. The field is used almost constantly by dog walkers, with the vast majority now using the whole field and allowing animals to run free. Dog waste bags are provided by LMPC via a dispenser, and owners are taking responsibility for their dogs, although there is still a minority who refuse to pick up and dispose of waste in a hygienic manner. The Play Area is used by younger children with child minders or parents, who seem to appreciate being able to use the toilets in an emergency. Older children bring scooters and bicycles to ride around the car park, making small jumps etc. with wood; one boy brings his ice hockey net, again putting it on the car park. During last summer teenagers also used the field as a meeting point, sitting on the field and listening to music, and on a couple of occasions families flew kites or played ball games. This increase in use seems to be connected to the gate being open more often, and access to toilets and the water fountain.

A Way Forward - Options

1) Write off previous expenditure associated with Cricket Square, remove fencing and allow area to merge with main playing field. This would open up the whole field, with no Cricket square available in future without a large expense to reinstate (probably in the region of £10,000 to £20,000) depending on quality.

2) Allow Cricket Square to be used for 2018 season. Over the summer discuss with residents concerns about noise; discuss with users their thoughts on using the site for cricket. During September Open Spaces WG to reassess and bring a recommendation to LMPC on future use. If this option is preferred, a budget should be set to control any expenditure (grass cutting, feeding etc.).

3) Consider future use of Recreation Field, and particularly the cricket square, by setting out a long term project.

Recommendations The Clerk seeks clear guidance as to how the Recreation Field, in particular the Cricket Square, is to progress. The Council must give clear and precise direction for a way forward.

                                                                                                                                                                                DEBORAH BOURNE Clerk/RFO 22 March 2018