£51k Ottery land use ‘ideas’ plea

PUBLISHED: 06:00 14 August 2010

STRAWBERRY LANE HOPE: Councillors hope community will come up with ideas for land

STRAWBERRY LANE HOPE: Councillors hope community will come up with ideas for land

Archant

CIVIC leaders are holding out for Ottery organisations to come forward and use part of a piece of land they spent £51,000 on to transform into a community sports facility.

Croquet has already got the ‘ok’ to feature at the Strawberry Lane site, but town councillors last week decided the whole area shouldn’t be dedicated to just one sport.

An international croquet coach has splashed around £7,000 on equipment to be used at the re-vamped spot- but has only been granted half the courts he asked for.

Councillors have been left stumped by a lack of interest in the land, which can only be utilised for sport, from residents and local groups. They last Monday vowed to wait in the hope there are “bright ideas” in the community.

The council could have saved cash after a croquet club offered to maintain the entire site in exchange for four courts, which would have taken up the majority of space. The club was instead allowed two with an option for expansion depending on future circumstances.

Councillor Peter Williams wanted colleagues to be “fair and balanced to everybody”, and didn’t want it to appear the council had “given £51,000 to a croquet club” when other organisations could benefit.

“If we give them too many courts we’ve effectively handed the land over for use by one particular organisation. We don’t know what other bright ideas there are out there in the community,” he said.

“I think it would be unwise to put all of our eggs in one basket if all that expenditure is to go on one club,” said Cllr Roger Giles.

“I don’t think we should stop anyone coming forward in the future by giving all the land to the croquet club.”

Leading coach for the Croquet Association of Great Britain, Cliff Jones, said last year he hoped to make the land a hub for the sport in East Devon. A covenant on the site confines its use to sport.

The town council had been approached in vain about using the site for a new museum, church, play group, horse driving club, orchard and band stand.

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