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Lib Dems say taxpayers' cash should not be prioritised for leisure facilities

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Grange Padddocks, Bishops Stortford. Saturday morning football. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (8597016)
Grange Padddocks, Bishops Stortford. Saturday morning football. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (8597016)

What is the best way to procure land and provide enhanced outdoor leisure, fitness and sporting facilities for Bishop’s Stortford’s growing population and support its many sports clubs?

Land in Bishop’s Stortford is under significant pressure due to increased development and population growth. Space in the town is under huge demand. There is a need to ensure that suitable land is available for housing and commercial developments as well as for leisure. We are fortunate that we live in a town close to pleasant countryside.

However, the Conservative district council’s own research has shown that Bishop’s Stortford has insufficient space designated for sports and leisure activities.

There are many benefits of sport and exercise, for both physical and mental health. Current areas such as at Grange Paddocks should continue to be protected and developed sustainably.

As well as developing Grange Paddocks, we are pleased to see plans are being considered to develop Castle Park, although we have deep reservations about proposals to reduce the space available at Markwell Pavilion.

The land alongside the River Stort is also due to be developed to open up this space to leisure activities, such as for walkers, runners and cyclists. There are also welcome developments at Herts and Essex school and Hockerill college, where new sports facilities will be open to community groups.

As Bishop’s Stortford has struggled to keep up with demand for leisure facilities in line with the growth of the town, it is important that these developments are managed to make best use of this land, including provision for local sports clubs.

However, we do not believe one of the council’s priorities should be on using taxpayer’s money to procure land to provide enhanced leisure and sport facilities. Local government is under significant financial pressure due to Tory cuts.

There should instead be a focus on ensuring provision is made for sports and leisure facilities for all of the community within the planning conditions issued for any new housing development approved by the council.

The Liberal Democrat local manifesto makes it clear that we support the development of affordable and social housing as a priority; but this needs to be genuinely sustainable and not to the detriment of precious Green Belt (including land which may be used for leisure).

The unsustainable development planned south of Whittington Way at Bishop’s Stortford South, where there is a significant lack of provision for affordable housing, highlights this issue.

Brownfield sites should be used primarily to develop affordable and social housing. These developments need to be accompanied by suitable infrastructure; this includes space and funding by developers for sport and leisure.

Grants should be provided to local community groups which provide sport that is inclusive for all of our town, regardless of individual income. Particular attention needs to be made to ensuring there are facilities such as playgrounds and parks for children and young people.

However, as a priority, we need to focus on protecting our existing countryside and green space when considering new housing developments in the town. This is with the aim of maintaining and improving all of our health.

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