Felixstowe: Fears for future of play and sport cash

Cash for play areas could be under threat if developers are not forced to pay contributions.

Cash for play areas could be under threat if developers are not forced to pay contributions. - Credit: Archant

Concern has been voiced over a long-standing scheme to provide cash for outdoor sports and play areas after government inspectors told two developers they need not contribute.

In the Suffolk Coastal district, housebuilders are required to give a sum per house towards the provision of play space if they cannot provide a play area as part of their development.

While larger projects usually include open space, for formal or informal recreation, smaller schemes, especially single properties cannot, and so they contribute towards a fund for equipment elsewhere in the area.

Felixstowe town and district councillor Michael Sharman said he was very concerned about two recent appeal decisions – for new properties at Cavendish Road, Trimley St Martin, and Park Avenue, Felixstowe – where the inspector said there was no need for the builders to pay.

He said: “In both cases, the inspector stated no evidence had been provided about existing provision in the area, whether there are deficiencies and, if there are, the specific use to which the contribution sought would be put in terms of additional provision.

“While I am astonished that no evidence was presented in these two cases, it seems to me that a coach and horses is being driven through the existing play space contribution scheme from which Felixstowe has greatly benefitted in the past.”

One of the inspectors said he did not believe a contribution to the play space fund was necessary because it was not directly related to the development.

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Andy Smith, Suffolk Coastal cabinet member for planning, said the play space scheme had been a long-standing initiative which the district council had introduced and which had been taken up by many other councils.

Evidence of the need for play and sports provision was gathered every year and was available.

He said: “It is a matter of concern but we are talking about just one or two instances where this policy has been challenged.

“Of much wider concern is that the government is trying to reduce many of the other planning obligations which they see as putting a burden on development, including affordable homes, schools and so on.”