A new play area for Chorleywood is once again a possibility. At Three Rivers Leisure and Well Being Committee meeting (6 Sept) there was an unanimous vote to seek planning permission for the installation of play area at site 15a* comprising of rustic style equipment similar to the Wildwood dens recently constructed on the Common.
Three Rivers (TRDC) state that Site15a was found to be of low ecological value and that the police anticipate no insurmountable safe guarding issues.
“ As part of the whole ecological process some trees were identified that could be removed and others that should be retained.” says Charlotte Gomes of TRDC, “Chorleywood Parish Council has confirmed that removing trees can help their Higher Level Stewardship Management plan as it can help established grassland. It is all about getting a balance at this stage – we are not saying we will cut trees down, there are still discussions with groups and consultations taking place over the coming months.”
“The aim of the Parish Council is to protect and enhance the valuable grassland habitat on Chorleywood Common” stresses Chorleywood PC Clerk Yvonne Merritt. “therefore the loss of a few trees is preferable to the destruction of grassland through development. It is hoped that if the scheme goes ahead a balance can be drawn which enhances the natural environment and the management regime of the Common.”
A petition in support of the play area with 650+ signatures was presented at the meeting by Simone Tyson of Chorleywood Mums
“ Chorleywood Common is a fantastic natural feature and new play provision needs to be in keeping with the setting. “ … Chorleywood needs to be a lot more bespoke than other successful new play areas elsewhere in the District.”
“Although a really positive addition (the existing Wildwood dens) are not in walking distance of the majority of residents…. a viable new play area …would be complementary to these.”
Wildwood UK was asked to submit some initial concepts to TRDC
‘Wildwood Dens installed on the Common last summer have been well received and we presented some concept drawings for the play area project” adds Lawrence Trowbridge, Director of Wildwood UK, “Our designs will provide an exciting natural play area but also act as a ‘stepping stone’ to exploring the wider Common landscape Children should play outdoors and discover nature. Our proposals allow a space for nature and blend in with natural surroundings.”
The beauty of natural play structures, adds Lawrence is the irregularity and unpredictablility and give a reason to appreciate nature.
“Dead and decaying trees are super-rare habitats. We arrange trunks are arranged to form natural tunnels for children to hide, branches to clamber over and jump from!”
Dad Paul Singleton is one of many Chorleywood residents who oppose the Common play area scheme and in a statement headed Save Our Common writes…
“Two play areas have been built already this year …As well as losing another bit of wildlife rich common, the area suggested for this play area is wholly unsuitable. Sandwiched between a road and the railway line, with zero pavements for most access routes, zero disabled access and the proposal to remove all the trees in the area to allow ‘safe oversite’. …Our children have used the Common for years as a natural play area as we did as children, Yes, we should encourage play and adventure but that doesn’t have to be sanitised.”
When we went to press Chorleywood Parish Council had not made a decision as to whether or not they were supporting the proposals.
“ We are keeping an open mind until we can put the plans before the Parish committee at the next meeting.” says Parish Council Chair Jane White, “We are delighted that Three Rivers have started to forge a better working relationship with us.”
So what happens next?
Council officers in consultation with CW Parish Council, local schools and parent groups will draw up detailed plans for submission to the Council’s Planning Committee and the Planning Inspectorate. Installation would not be before Autumn next year and there is still a chance that a public enquiry might be held,
* 15a is an area of unmaintained woodland and brambles almost adjacent to the entrance to the station car park bounded by the station car park fence, the railway fence and the service road into the station car park