Community urged to rally round splash park scheme

4:00pm Wednesday 27th August 2014

By Dan Robinson

A CAMPAIGN for a community splash park in Witney has hit a stumbling block after interest in the project dwindled.

Witney Town Council has raised £200,000 to transform facilities in The Leys recreation ground after a petition signed by more than 160 parents last year.

It needs residents to raise about an extra £25,000, but councillors and officers said they are “frustrated” at lack of progress.

Councillor Harry Eaglestone, chairman of the splash park working party, said: “It was started off by a load of mums wanting something done, but it’s gradually dwindled away.

“There’s only a certain amount the council can do with raising money and the rest has to come from the community.

“We just want that last big push so we can finally start the work but it’s very frustrating.

“The public say they want something and write letters but when it comes down to the nitty gritty we can’t get anyone to back us up.

“I think people do still want it. If we had it in place this summer it would have been glorious.”

Plans for the splash park came after Witney’s only outdoor pool was closed after 45 years in February last year because of broken slabs around the pool.

The pool had to be shut five times last year due to broken bottles found in the water.

Community campaign group Liven Up The Leys was set up to work with the working party and raised almost £9,000 for the project, but it has lost most of its members and has not met since October.

Proposals include a wet play area, adventure playground, sand pit and a family area, with hopes to later include a sensory garden.

The town council has pledged £70,000 towards the initiative, while a £75,000 grant has been given by landfill tax grants body Wren and £45,000 by West Oxfordshire District Council’s community facilities grant. But other funding bodies will only accept applications from community groups.

The council’s facilities manager Claire Swan said: “We have listened to people and put money aside, working hard to raise other funding, but nothing else has happened.

“What we really need is motivated people in the community who have certain skills to join the Liven Up The Leys group, even if they could just offer an hour or two a month.

“It would be a shame to see it dwindle because it would be a waste of an opportunity.”

Oxfordshire Playing Fields Association has worked with the town council to help it access funds.

Community development officer Nicole O’Donnell said funding bodies like The Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation, which gives £2.5m in grants to charities each year, would not give funds to councils.

She said: “In these kinds of community projects there are pots of money councils can’t apply to because it’s really important to show that everyone locally supports it.”

Mum-of-one Claire Growther, who started last year’s petition and was a member of Liven Up The Leys, said she had been unable to offer her time after starting a new job.

She added: “I think the will is still there for it but people just haven’t got the amount of time the council required to help sort it.”

Anyone interested in getting involved should contact the town council on 01993 704379 or email info@witney-tc.gov.uk

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