Here in The Shed, where the Horrabridge Times is put together, we sometimes have to report criticism of the parish council but try to stay out of joining in with it. However, we feel moved to use this occasional comment column to declare some mild disappointment with the handling of the great debate about how to spend £100,000 raised by the sale of land at Walkham Meadows.
Mainly, it’s true, because our own ideas got lost along the way.
Back in July, when the public consultation was launched, we cherrypicked from various conversations and offered up suggestions including a feasibility study on getting electricity out of the river again; a survey of drainage to identify work which might be match-funded by other authorities; a biodigester for generating gas from poo and vegetable matter; and a drive to re-open access to the river in some of the places it has been shut off by fencing over the years. Later, we chucked in a proposal for a basketball court where teenagers could hang out.
All this was more in hope than expectation and there would have been reasonable reasons for saying thanks but no thanks to every bit of it. But it turns out nobody even noticed.
The list of ideas eventually considered by a council committee, including their own suggestions, was as follows:
* Skate park.
*Radio station (now launched independently).
* Pedestrian safety improvements.
* Improved village signage.
* Village hall refurbishment.
* Sports pavilion refurbishment.
* Community mini-bus.
* Resurfacing of existing park play areas.
* Outdoor gym.
* Garden for deaf and blind.
* New ridge tiles for church (since done anyway).
* Cinema equipment for village hall.
* Chair lift or train up the hill.
* Tennis court.
* Road sweeper.
* Toddler play area.
The outdoor gym, or activity course, is still under consideration. The council is buying a new shed for storing road salt, costing £6,000. It is prepared to spend up to £25,000 on renewing the Fillace Park carpark when the future of the pavilion has been decided. Otherwise, the big idea moving forward is £27,000 worth of new play equipment for toddlers and the disabled – including a wheelchair swing costing £18,000 with enclosure and soft surfacing.
At their last meeting, the deputy chairman of the council, Steve Roche, took issue with us calling this the council’s own pet project. He said it was suggested in the first place by Sharon Ellis, a regular in the public seats at council meetings and a genuine soul with no vested interest. But councillors took it up and were sharing catalogue information between themselves all through the “public consultation”.
It would take a hard heart to say it might not be good value. But here on the sidelines, it looks like a gamble. Meanwhile the Methodists are putting their own money into an indoor play area for youngsters and special needs in the old chapel.
So, assuming the playing fields will get £25,000 one way or another, that leaves £42,000 still in reserve. Not enough for a power station, sure. Any more bright ideas left?
* Notes From The Shed is written by Chris Benfield