Update regarding issues at the Recreation Grounds, Little Waltham
As the Parish Council continues to receive a number of queries regarding the ongoing situation at the recreation grounds here is a summary of the current position. As the matter progresses this posting will be updated.
At its meeting on 3 September 2019 Chelmsford City Council refused the Cricket Club's application for retrospective consent for the fence the club had previously erected.
The recreation grounds are owned by Chelmsford City Council who entered into a lease in 1968 with the Parish Council who in turn have permitted the Little Waltham Cricket Club use part of the area for their activities for many years now.
In April 2018 the Cricket Club erected a fence across the field without the consent or permission of either the Parish Council or Chelmsford City Council.
The club has been advised by both the City Council and Parish Council that it should submit an application for planning permission for the fence or take down the structure.
Mindful of the complexity and cost to residents of legal proceedings the Parish Council attempted to engage with the club to find a solution to the issue. A substantial amount of effort and time was committed to this endeavour by both the Clerk and Councillors. This eventually culminated in a meeting between the Parish Council, the City Council and the Cricket Club on 22nd November 2018 whereby a solution acceptable to all parties was reached. The City Council agreed to issue a new lease to the Cricket Club for the land they use and a fresh lease to the Parish Council for the remainder of the recreation grounds. It was noted that this will enable the City Council to deal directly with the Cricket Club in relation to the issue of the fence which from a legal perspective will enable matters to be dealt with more effectively. The intention is that the land will continue to be let to the respective parties as public open space.
Draft documentation was issued by the City Council to the Parish Council in January 2019 and some issues were raised by the Parish Council in February 2019 in relation to the paperwork. A detailed response was received on 20th May from the City Council and the Parish Council responded on 23 May with a query on just one outstanding issue. Once that issue has been clarified the lease paperwork may be referred to the respective lawyers to finalise.
In April 2019 the Cricket Club affixed locks to the fencing precluding access to the land they occupy.
The Parish Council met with the City Council on 24th April 2019 with a view to both progressing the conclusion of the new lease as soon as possible and discussing the issue of the padlocked fence. The City Council is considering with its enforcement department if action may be taken forthwith but it appears more likely that this is also an issue that will have to be dealt with upon the conclusion of the issue of the new leases.
The Parish Council fully appreciates that residents are frustrated and angry in relation to the fact that this issue has remained unresolved for such a long time. However, it is hoped that this posting will demonstrate both the fact that this is a legally complex issue and the fact that the Parish Council has been using best efforts to resolve the matter all along, without imposing upon residents financially.
The negotiation regarding the lease is currently in abeyance pending a decision in relation to the planning application submitted by the club in relation to the fence. Updates will follow as the issue progresses.
(Posting last updated 9 September 2019)