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posted 25 Apr 2012, 15:41 by Westover Labour
At today's meeting of the Wheels Sports Facility Action Group the YMCA took a step back from it's offer to contribute land in return for a Skatepark on it's site in the light of criticism from Councillors and Skaters in recent weeks. At the start of the meeting the YMCA Chief Executive , Martin Hodgson, made the announcement on behalf of his Chairman and Board, and immediatly left the room.

Cllr Brian Smedley, who was attending the Action Group meeting for the first time along with members of the Bridgwater Skatepark Campaign, said afterwards "Whilst the decision appears to have been made in order to distance the YMCA from any allegations of bias or favouritism as so far it has been the only site to be considered, by them taking a temporary back seat it does allow us time to make sure all possible sites have been properly investigated - including the YMCA."

Study of Land Options

Cllr Smedley (below left) was delegated by the meeting to produce a full survey by June of all sites in Bridgwater with skatepark potential. He said "I would welcome any more suggestions but so far we've identified 20 other possible sites. With the co-operation of the Skatepark campaign, Ward Councillors  and town and district officers I intend to produce a definitive study of land options which the committee can then determine where best to spend the money that Sedgemoor and Bridgwater Councils have made available for this purpose and which has been patiently waited for by the skating community over the years and which we must get right! This week the Town Council backed an appeal from the Skatepark campaign for publicly accessible land, free of charge and the maximum involvement of users in the consultation process and we intend to honour that position."

The District Council has a Skatepark  budget of £110,000 which Chair of the Committee Cllr John Swayne confirmed was available for " least the next 3 years" plus £20,000 from Bridgwater Town Council, which Town Clerk Alan Hurford confirmed was to be spent on a "publicly accessible skatepark in consultation with users". 

Skatepark Campaign Secretary, Laura Costello (below right), said "Glastonbury, Dorchester,Filton and Taunton skateparks are all good models of large scale council owned, outdoor skateparks built after clear consultation and input by service users" and urged that the survey seek a site on the Glastonbury/Taunton model. "Glastonbury skatepark is 35m x 15m" she added "A park this size would be affordable, aimed specifically at the older service users and would complement what provision is already in the town."

Extreme Sport

Skateboarders Alex and Jakk , who attended the meeting at the invitation of the Chairman following a request to start involving users on the committee, expressed their frustration . Alex said at the meeting "I came here today to discuss with the YMCA if we could work with their plans and negotiate on things like access, design, registration and supervision  because Skateboardings an extreme sport and a lot of people weren't happy with what was on offer but we hoped we could at least talk about it and see if we could make it work. "

Ward Councillors Ian Tucker and Dave Loveridge supported the move to look elsewhere for land which fitted the skateboarders  needs and Chairman  Cllr John Swayne reminded the meeting that the YMCA offer "..although off the table at the moment can still be looked at alongside other suggestions. I welcome the offer to do a survey of other land but I have personally looked everywhere and so I wish you luck."

Hard Pressed

SDC officer Teresa Harvey said "The YMCA offer was a good offer and could be the best one on the table and one which was achievable as they would provide the staff and resources to develop it which I will be hard pressed to find within my own team at Sedgemoor. There are also other skateboard people who might have a different view to those expressed today and who I will also consult with at future meetings."

When questioned by Laura about the results of the YMCA consultation exercise   , which showed 100% in favour of the location of the new park at the YMCA,  Teresa accepted that there were other elements of the Consultation process which had not been presented to the meeting as they "weren't yet available"  but she would make sure the full consultation was available at the next meeting.

The next meeting will be in early June and in the meantime suggestions for skatepark sites or general contributions to the discussion can go via the Skatepark campaign site on Facebook or by contributing to the survey now being undertaken by Brian Smedley -