Residents and cricket club search for common ground over future lease


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A LOCAL residents’ association has raised concerns over Westbury and District Cricket Club’s (WDCC) plans to secure a lease of the cricket ground at Leighton Recreation Center (LRC). They say this could result in the area no longer being open to dog walkers and residents. However, the cricket club deny these claims and say that a lease would benefit the whole town as they would be able to apply for grants to make the area a home for sporting excellence in the town, whilst not restricting public access for dog walkers.

The cricket club is trying to secure a lease of the ground, which is currently owned by Wiltshire Council, in order to gain access to grants to bring more sports facilities to the LRC in the future, such as a 4G football pitch and tennis facilities.

A residents’ association believes that any potential lease would result in the area being fenced off from dog walkers and residents who live nearby. The cricket club say that they want to install a fence or rope off the cricket playing area, to deter vandalism and dogs fouling in the playing area, but that the area will still be accessible for dog walkers.

There will be a public consultation by Wiltshire Council on the lease of the LRC soon.

A spokesperson from the residents’ association said, “In general, local people are respectful of the cricketing area, confining our recreational activities largely to the space outside the cricket outfield.

“In the winter, however, when the poorly drained perimeter of the field becomes soggy with run-off rainwater from the surrounding fields, we’ve always been able to make use of the firmer, flatter areas of the field – until last winter when WDCC decided to rope off the entire outfield and deny access to everyone else. This led to our concerns about the intentions of WDCC securing a lease of the LRC.”

The cricket club’s chairman, James Clack, said in response, “We roped off the playing field area to stop vehicles and bikes driving dangerously over the field while it was in such a poor condition, as the cost of repair would fall to us – this was not to impact dog walkers and they could still access the field. The cricket club is responsible for any repairs, so that’s why we made that decision, but it was not to impact walkers in any way. We were trying to maintain the field so everyone could still use it.

“We are trying to make Leighton a more family friendly environment and show that this really is an area for everyone to enjoy – but this is becoming increasingly more difficult with the amount of dog mess that we are constantly cleaning up. A fence is just one idea, but it may be that we look at putting up a rope instead and this is this is primarily to protect the pitch from cars and bikes and to make vandals think twice about carrying out damage.

“We don’t want to exclude dog walkers at all, but we want the select few to take more pride in their local area and clean up after their dogs. The damage to the ground and our facilities are fixed and paid for by the club – not by Wiltshire Council.”

However, the residents’ association says that this is a “land grab” by the cricket club. A spokesperson said, “As residents of the town, we are pleased that we have such a beautiful community facility where many of us have enjoyed exercise throughout the years. Why does WDCC want this to change? Why can’t they continue to co-exist with the rest of us and encourage sport for all, as has been the case for decades?

“Why don’t they work with the local community to encourage more responsible behavior by all users? We installed an extra litter bin to encourage dog owners to be more responsible. It worked – people use it! What is this land grab really about?”

James rejects these claims and says that the cricket club wants sport for all at the LRC. He said, “We are trying to get a lease for the area as it gives us certainty of tenure and it will allow us to apply for grants to improve not just our facilities, but introduce things that will encourage more sports to be played and community activities to be successful. We actively encourage collaboration and involvement of the local community at all stages of the project.

“We’ve had conversations with Westbury Town Council who see the cricket club as a catalyst for sporting excellence and we’ve discussed certain things amongst ourselves such as bringing a 4G pitch to the area and returning tennis to Leighton – we want to expand and open the area up for all sports, so it is a real sporting and community centre.”

Wiltshire Council will undergo a consultation of the lease soon, where the public can have their say on the future of the LRC. The cricket club say they will meet with the residents’ association to discuss the potential lease and any concerns they may have.

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