Skateboarders win despite protests

A SKATE park for Manor Gardens has been given the go-ahead by the council’s planning committee.

On Tuesday evening councillors voted to approve both a concrete and timber framed skate park but said they favoured the concrete option.

The many young skaters who attended the meeting were delighted with the result, but Old Town residents, who have strongly opposed the plans, left Eastbourne Town Hall concerned about noise pollution in the tranquil gardens.

Cllr Tom Liddiard was one of many to speak at the meeting and raised the concerns of a large number of resident within his Upperton Ward.

He said the gardens were for relaxation and tranquillity and added, “The crashing, grinding and smashing of skateboards, scooters or other equipment will change the feeling of the gardens forever.”

Safety concerns and access for emergency vehicles were also raised.

Mayor, Cllr Carolyn Heaps, who has helped the young skaters in their call for a skate park, presented a petition to the planning committee and spoke at the meeting as an Old Town councillor.

She said, “Eastbourne is well-known for its Extreme event and it is right that we as a council honour our young people with a wide range of facilities.

“There is not enough teenage facilities in this area – please remedy this situation and I can guarantee that these young people and the generations after them will thank you for it.”

The skate park will be constructed in the basketball courts in Manor Gardens and a temporary roadway through Gildredge Park will be made during the construction.

Hedges between the basketball court and the cafe will be removed to make way for the scheme but will mostly be replanted.

It will be funded by Lottery money but concerns were raised about whether the £85,000 grant would be sufficient.

Cllr Annabelle West asked, “The final cost may well be more, much more, where would this money come from?

“We were told by the leader of the council that no council funding would be used for this skate park.”

Cllr Gordon Jenkins, who sits on the planning committee and voted against the plan, said he felt the plan had been ‘rushed through’ because of the possibility of losing the lottery money.

Cllr Jenkins was concerned ongoing maintenance of the facility may have to come out of the public purse.

And Cllr West added, “Residents, quite justifiably, feel that their views have not been taken into account or their objections receiving proper consideration and that they are being presented with a fait accompli.”

However, chair of the planning committee Cllr John Ungar said there was no predetermination and Cllr Jon Harris, who also sat on the planning committee and voted for the skate park, said he was ‘saddened’ the issue had become politicised.

Cllr Harris said he was ‘open minded’ about the application and added, “I have received no instruction, no arm twisting, no emails or anything else encouraging me to vote either way.”

Permission was granted with four votes in favour and one vote against.

Eastbourne Council leader, Cllr David Tutt, said, “I am delighted permission has been granted for these facilities.”