Jubilee field plan facing delays

Axminster Town Council wants maintenance money handed over before they take on the former St Mary’s Hospital land

Axminster’s plans for a major new recreation area to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee are facing delays and concerns over funding this week.

Members of the town council heard on Monday that the handover of the former St Mary’s hospital field for community use was not now expected to be completed by the original September 1 deadline.

And there is growing concern about how a �29,000 pot of money for its upkeep will be administered.

Plans for what is likely to become “The Jubilee Field” include setting up a playground for children, of all ages, and an informal sports area.

It is hoped to plant 60 trees there to mark the jubilee and create a park-like feel, with seats where people can relax.

Dogs would be banned from the area.

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The field is currently owned by developers Betterment Properties who are due to hand it over to East Devon District Council on September 1.

But deputy mayor Jeremy Walden told this week’s council meeting that it was likely the date would now be put back.

He said there were a number of issues which needed answers before they could start fine tuning the project – amongst them the finance.

He said that for the first year responsibility for maintaining the field would remain with Betterment but after that a �29,000 endowment fund would be given to the district council to “drip feed” to Axminster town council, as necessary, for maintenance.

“I am deeply annoyed that EDDC think they are better custodians of funds to look after our property than us,” said Cllr Walden.

“I object to us having to rely on the magnanimity of officers at EDDC - the money might as well be in our bank account earning interest than in theirs.

“East Devon doesn’t want the land and we will have it make sure it is responsibly used.”

Councilors were also concerned the area might be too formalised – an undulating park might be a better aim than having the site leveled off, some agreed.

Cllr Walden felt the kick-about area should be just that – not marked out for specific sports.

“Two blazers for goal posts were always goods enough for most people,” he said.

Cllr Paul Hayward said he backed plans to raise money for the 60 jubilee field trees through public subscription.

Cllr Douglas Hull said Axminster’s three district councillors should press for the town council to be allowed to administer the maintenance cash.

Cllr Graham Godbeer said he had always viewed the land as a potential park where people could go and walk. As such it would not be vital to level the ground and no need to mark out a sports pitch.

Mayor Andrew Moulding said the consensus was they did not necessarily need to have a flat field but if the developer wanted to do that before handing it over it would be difficult to deny his planning application.

And if leveled it would be easier to look after and mow.

Members agreed to ask the district and Betterment for preliminary talks ahead of the handover.

* How do you think the Jubilee Field should be used? E mail Midweek Herald reporter Chris Carson with your ideas: chris.carson@archant.co.uk