Gate call for Heathfield car park

Colin Ironside outside the Heathfield Community Centre
Colin Ironside outside the Heathfield Community Centre

Heathfield residents are cautiously hopeful steps will be taken to resolve problems of anti-social behaviour, noise and drug use that have blighted their lives for 20-plus years.

Concerns of people living in Sheepsetting Lane, Wealdview Road and nearby streets focus on unauthorised use of the Community Centre car park. The centre is owned by the NHS Trust and leased to Heathfield and Waldron Parish Council.

Only people authorised by both groups are allowed to park there. But from early evening until the small hours, youngsters in unsilenced cars do hand-brake turns and rev their engines. There are also concerns, reported by residents, of drug syringes found on the Tarmac.

Now people are saying, enough is enough. Sheepsetting Lane Residents Association member Colin Ironside, from Wealdview Road, said: “I live opposite the Centre and have to sleep with earplugs. Cars screech around the car park and roar up the road at all hours. A peaceful night is a forgotten luxury.”

Last week Sheepsetting Lane Residents Association members met police, Heathfield Parish Council and NHS Trust bosses to discuss a proposal to put gates - locked after hours - across the Centre entrance. They cited Broad Oak village hall where similar problems resulted in a gate.

Parish council chairman Patrick Coffey chaired the meeting and introduced Mike Chewton, estate development manager for the ESH NHS Trust.

Colin Ironside highlighted a Trust email received last October saying a request for capital funding for gates would be submitted. He also described Trust emails and telephone calls confirming an agreement to fit a gate was approved and a request submitted to the finance department. Mr Chewton told him the Trust executives he had spoken to did not understand the capital finance process.

Colin has records of hundreds of calls to police but resource shortages mean they are unable to attend in time.

Mr Coffey sympathised, saying issues had been ongoing for years. He confirmed the proposal would be put before the council’s next environment and leisure meeting and once the principle is agreed, it could go forward to a business and costing plan. But he emphasised agreement must be reached between the parish council, trust and users of the centre as to how it could be accessed once a gate is in place.

Parish Clerk Diana Francis said she would hesitate to lock the car park up in the evening if people were sitting there in unauthorised cars.