Opposition to memorial vandalism'

PUBLISHED: 15:31 09 November 2007 | UPDATED: 23:08 28 May 2010

Amanda Carlin in front of the gates to Wimblington’s Memorial Playing Field, part of which could be turned into a lorry park – Pic: Brian Purdy

Amanda Carlin in front of the gates to Wimblington's Memorial Playing Field, part of which could be turned into a lorry park - Pic: Brian Purdy

Story by MAGGIE GIBSON PROPOSALS which would see a large part of a village playing field turned into a truck park have upset residents who believe the site should stay as a war memorial. A trustee of Wimblington War Memorial Playing Field says she has had

Story by MAGGIE GIBSON

PROPOSALS which would see a large part of a village playing field turned into a truck park have upset residents who believe the site should stay as a war memorial.

A trustee of Wimblington War Memorial Playing Field says she has had calls from distressed villagers opposed to the idea.

When the Parish Council identified the field as a possible site for a new village community centre, Knowles Transport donated the plans and has offered the lion's share of match funding to the council in return for a parcel of land from the field.

But Amanda Carlin says: "Those who do consider it a war memorial are distressed by the intention of turning part of it into a truck park. Is this defacing a war memorial? Could this be considered vandalism? It certainly is by some very distressed people within the village and this is very sad and it is making them very cross.

"Those who were involved in the fund-raising -- and there are many people in the village who were -- sincerely believe in the sentiments of remembrance and see the proposals as disrespectful."

The proposals have split the village with others believing it is great way of getting state-of-the-art facilities for future generations.

At the end of the Second World War the village organised a fund-raising campaign to provide a fitting memorial to those who had died. The money was given to the parish council to buy the land in Doddington Road for use as a playing field and recreation ground.

The Royal British Legion donated the gates to the war memorial playing field and the parish council acts as custodians to the land.

Although the council holds the land in trust, in perpetuity as a playing field, Mrs Carlin says it could be sold to Knowles Transport if the Charity Commission gives permission. The council needs to have gained approval for its grant application for a new community centre from the Big Lottery Fund before the Charity Commission is approached.

Mrs Carlin is asking villagers, whatever their views, to consider all aspects of the proposals. She had set out the various arguments for and against using the playing field for a new community centre in a letter on our website.

HERE'S THE FULL TEXT OF MRS CARLIN'S LETTER

At this time of year, thoughts turn to the valiant, all those who gave their lives for us to live in freedom today; during both world wars, and other conflicts that followed, today's service personnel - troops and peace- keepers in areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan - or indeed members of the police force, NHS staff, paramedics, fire service or anyone working for our country's services. These people put their lives on the line each day. Most of us will have lost somebody close in the line of duty and on Remembrance we join together to show our respect to the brave.

When WW2 ended, many towns and villages started fundraising to provide a memorial. Wimblington was no exception. Already having a war memorial monument in the village but no play area or recreation ground, it was decided the war memorial would take the form of a playing field. A committee formed and fund raising events included football matches and some gave personal donations. Three possible sites were identified of which Doddington Road was the most suitable. The funds raised by the local community were given to the Parish Council to purchase the land as a playing field and recreation ground, accessible free of charge to all in perpetuity and also act as a war memorial. The Parish Council were to act as custodians to the land and not owners. The Parish Council hold the land in trust and the land has charitable status, under Charity Number 1090526. We now have a wonderful, secure, enclosed playing field accessible to all with good play equipment, a green area and free for all to use and we must thank the Parish Council for managing the area so well for us all to enjoy.

The Royal British Legion donated the wonderful gates to the war memorial playing field and as the servicemen and women fought for our freedom during the war, children are able to run and play in freedom and safety with parents and guardians watching over them.

In 2002 Wimblington & Stonea carried out a Parish Plan - a survey including carefully selected questions that cover lifestyle and socio/economic factors. Delivered by hand to every household in the village and collected on a designated date again by hand. Information gathered is collated and recorded to provide a snapshot in time and establish if those in the village believe all appropriate resources and facilities are available. The results were assessed and projects for improving the environment identified. The Parish Plan is also used as a basis to gain funding for projects. Two of the questions posed in 2002's plan asked if the current parish hall should remain and if the village wanted a new community centre. More than 50% of respondents answered positively to each question.

The Parish Council started a project to house and build a new community centre. Possible sites were identified and Wimblington's sports facility and ground, Parkfield was also considered, but none of them were suitable. To assist the Parish Council, Knowles Transport kindly donated plans for a new community centre to be sited on the war memorial playing field. Knowles Transport are offering the lion share of match funding to the Parish Council, a total of £490k and the other half is being applied for through the Big Lottery Fund. In return Knowles Transport require an undecided parcel of land from the war memorial playing field.

The plans are impressive, they include a multi-purpose room with facilities for indoor sports such as; indoor cricket, five-a-side football, badminton etc. There is an option for a surgery, a bar and bar store. The building itself has a footprint of, approximately 45' longer and approximately 27' wider than the Parish Hall, it has provision for approximately 20 more car parking spaces and 4 dedicated disabled parking bays. There will be room for some of the current play equipment in the designated recreation area and the rest could be re-housed on the play area at Eaton Estate. It has been proposed by the Parish Council to include a secluded picnic area between the cemetery and site for the proposed centre and following a request from some young people in the village part of the site could be used as a skate park. Neither of these additional items can be found on the current plans.

According to the plans, the first draft of which was drawn up in December 2006 and the final draft prepared in January of this year, this would leave an area of almost 3/4 of the war memorial playing field available for Knowles Transport to take in exchange for the donation towards building costs. The company has also made an offer to provide other professional services but as Tony Knowles, Head of Knowles Transport is also Vice Chair to the Parish Council he is considered a "connected person" by the Charity Commission and therefore this kind offer would not be accepted because it would be a conflict of interest, and the Parish Council need to meet those costs themselves.

Although the Parish Council holds the land in trust, in perpetuity as a playing field/recreation ground, the land could be sold to Knowles Transport if the Charity Commission gives permission. There are several steps the Parish Council must follow in order to gain permission, one of which is to acquire a written report from a qualified surveyor, acting exclusively for the charity. The surveyor's report must agree the sale of the land is in the best interests of the charity. More information can be found free of charge at, www.charity-commission.gov.uk.

The Parish Council need to have gained approval for their grant application for a new community centre, before the Charity Commission are approached. If the grant is approved a referendum will be held to establish if the new community centre is wanted by those in the village. If the referendum is voted in favour of a new centre, the Charity Commission will want proof the Parish Council have informed the village of the sale of land and for small charities this only need be from two pieces of media, which the Parish Council have already provided. In fact there have been two articles in the local press, also the Chair of the Parish Council advised in her annual report there are plans for a new community centre and comments were invited, there are also the plans which were first available to view at the Parish Council's AGM and are still available to see in the small room of the Parish Hall. The Charity Commission expects all representations to the Parish Council to be accepted and considered.

Some within the village are excited about the thought of a new war memorial community centre and believe it is in the best interests of the village, and certainly the funders will be very impressed by the wonderful close links being forged between major business and the Parish Council - this can only be a good thing. So given there are so many positive points in favour of the proposed project, why is there so much upset and distress within the village towards the proposals? Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a fabulous new centre within the village, especially with such incredible facilities? Over a number of months many people have contacted me on the subject and I have collated the following concerns:

* ?Are the results from 2002's Parish Plan still relevant today? Since the results were published, the community were given permission by the Parish Council to improve the parish hall, and improve it they have! It now has; central heating, a new kitchen, new disabled wc and updated male and female facilities, new windows, new kitchen equipment, fresh internal and external decoration. The majority of work was donated free of charge by local tradesmen and other community members. Although the Parish Council gained some funding towards the new kitchen, they have only given a small amount towards these improvements, as the majority of money came from extensive, ongoing fundraising from the community and today we have a wonderful comfortable, warm and inviting building, tastefully decorated and well maintained.

* ?The Parish Hall hire charge has recently increased by a vast amount. It is clear the original charges were incredibly reasonable and although the charges have risen steeply they are still competitive in today's environment. These increases have led to some groups having to stop making use of the Parish Hall and find alternative venues including; Thomas Eaton School and The West End at St Peter's. Other groups are struggling to keep using the hall because of the increases. However outside agencies have looked at the seemingly competitive rates and decided to hire the hall. Should a Parish Hall primarily be available for those within the local community? Should the Parish Council encourage assistance if groups are struggling? There is a lower rate for groups and committees within the village and an increase was necessary to accommodate rising utility bills and to cover salaries etc, but these increases were so large it has placed many groups with a tough decision - do they fold or do they find an alternative venue? A distressing thought to the majority of users because they fought so hard to keep this beautiful building in operation. Their efforts have enabled the Parish Council to use public funds elsewhere.

* ?Other community buildings are available in the village including; Thomas Eaton School, Parkfield and the West End at St Peter's. Again does 2002's Parish Plan take these factors into consideration? Certainly not The West End, this facility was not available at the time.

* ?Does Wimblington have the requirement and resource to support another community centre within the village? The Parish Hall is certainly not over-used and there are other community buildings already competing at much better rates. Would this leave the new centre available only to outside agencies? Is that good for the community? Is that the purpose of the building?

* ?If Knowles Transport purchase such a large parcel of the war memorial playing field, what will this mean to the village? Will this bring more lorries to the village? Will this make the roads busier? Will this present itself in increased noise from the Knowles Transport operation?

* ?Our village has grown, with increased pavement areas. Throughout the day many pedestrians, including mothers with children face daily hazards as traffic appears to fly by. Some residents describe walking along March Road as, "horrifying" with heavy vehicles inching closer to the pavement and a perception by those on foot, that the vehicles are travelling at speed.

* ?The village has grown in terms of residency. Should alternative access to Knowles Transport be considered instead of vehicles rattling through the village at all hours? Would this be safer for the residents and drivers? Would this be a happier solution? Could Knowles Transport donate funds towards new pedestrian crossings in the village instead of a new centre?

* ?If Knowles Transport do purchase a proportion of the war memorial playing field, what would the new footprint look like in the centre of the village?

* ?If a new community centre is built and the remaining land sold to Knowles Transport, where will the childrens' green area be? There is a small play area on one of the estates and another on Eaton Estate. The Eaton Estate play area is centred around a busy road with vehicles moving at all hours, albeit slowly and carefully but still a hazard and it is not enclosed.

* ?The proposed community centre includes a new indoor sporting facility, great fun for young people. How much will this cost for young people to use? Who will manage it? Would it be better to house a new sporting facility at Wimblington's dedicated sports ground, Parkfield? St Peter's is close to Parkfield - would a community centre based at Parkfield make an even better venue for christenings and weddings. Parkfield is also very close to the new cemetery and would make a good point for wakes too. There is already plenty of parking available and the Parish Council own the facility, so this is a good alternative.

* ?Although Wimblington has an increased population and there are more children, there are considerably more older people. Many people are distressed because they see the recreation ground as a war memorial. When funds were raised after WW2, they were for a new war memorial, and as already stated instead of having a new monument a playing field was purchased, it is the, "war memorial playing field" or "war memorial" and "playing field". Its purpose was to be available to everyone free of charge. Do you consider the land a war memorial or real estate? Those who do consider it a war memorial are distressed by the intention of turning part of it into a truck park. Is this defacing a war memorial? Could this be considered vandalism? It certainly is by some very distressed people within the village and this is very sad and it is making them very cross. Those who were involved in the fundraising and there are many people in the village who were, sincerely believe in the sentiments of remembrance and see the proposals as disrespectful.

* ?The measurements provided in the current plans, show approximately 3/4 of the war memorial playing field is available for Knowles Transport to take in exchange for their very kind donation of £490k towards the building of a new community centre. This does not take into account a possible discreet picnic area or new skate park. We spoke to a trained professional and basing his answer on a conservative estimate of an average building plot being worth £70k in Wimblington today the remaining area would be worth £2.5m. This was from a casual assessment and it is not an official report. Are the people of Wimblington getting value for money from the proposal? A formal report would explain more.

* ?Can the village sustain another community centre? If it is not used, what will stop Knowles Transport from purchasing the remainder of the land, if the precedent has been set.

All of this is only possible if the Parish Council's grant application is approved. As I know some of the residents in Wimblington are opposed to the idea of losing a growing village's only safe and enclosed recreation ground - they will consider not gaining approval a good thing or is it? Certainly if the grant is approved, there is a possibility of losing the war memorial playing field, which could be replaced by an impressive, new war memorial community centre but would mean the loss of approximately 75% of the war memorial playing field to a local haulage company - again, this would only happen if a referendum agrees to the proposals.

Is it not democratic to vote on such a proposal? What are your thoughts? Do you want to keep the war memorial playing field or do you want a wonderful new war memorial community centre? Do you want to see increased traffic and hear more noise on the roads in the village? The haulage company has been in the village for many years, do you want to see a greater presence from our local haulage company within the village - could this mean greater co-operation between business and our Parish Council? Would it be better to establish once and for all if the village is for the proposal or against?

Some are concerned, the motivation is for Knowles Transport to purchase the land and not for the community to gain a new community centre and even if the grant is not approved, what would really stop Knowles Transport from attempting to purchase the war memorial playing field in the future if they really want it? Would it be best to hold a referendum anyway to see if the village agrees to the proposal? Could the Parish Council and Knowles Transport allay fears by confirming this will NEVER happen? If a referendum is held and you want your voice to be heard in favour of or against the idea of a new community centre and the exchange of land to Knowles Transport, I urge you to vote. Don't assume the majority are for or against, please remember our servicemen and women fought for democracy in Britain - so please take the opportunity and vote.

Once again this year's Remembrance Sunday service in Wimblington will start with a parade from "the hill" where the Standard Bearer - David Lea will walk us to the war memorial angel at St Peter's and Vic Jeeves will be our bugler. The Remembrance Sunday service will then take place at the Methodist Church in Norfolk Street. Anyone wanting to join in the parade is very welcome. We will particularly remember David Rose who sadly passed away suddenly earlier on in the year. He was a dedicated member of the Royal British Legion and did his best each year, along with his wife Marilyn and in conjunction with the church or chapel to make Remembrance Sunday a respectful affair as it should be.

LEST WE FORGET.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Cambs Times

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists