Shoreham parents and pupils step up calls for improved outdoor play space

Shoreham pupils held up placards outside a public meeting on Thursday (9 June).

The young activists are from Swiss Gardens Primary School and, alongside their parents, are calling for improved play space.

Currently, the pupils have access to a concrete area and an area of The Meads leased to West Sussex County Council by Adur District Council.

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But parents say the space can sometimes be too muddy or dangerous to play on and called for an all weather pitch.

Swiss Gardens pupils before Thursday's meeting

Despite more than a quarter of a million pounds being ringfenced for improvements, some in the community disagree with an artificial pitch for environmental and other reasons.

Thursday’s Adur County Local Forum was fully booked and saw parents, the Friends of the Meads group, council officers and county councillors meet.

One parent asked why a solution had ‘taken so long’.

Angus Dunn, a county and district councillor, confirmed that ADC would oppose an artificial pitch if it was requested.

Swiss Gardens pupils before Thursday's meeting

This follows objections from Friends of the Meads members and a public consultation which showed a preference for keeping grass.

A 2020 school drop in found a preference for a 3G artificial grass pitch but a public drop in session saw the majority vote for improved natural grass.

Kirsten Wild, of Friends of the Meads, said: “We respect where all of you are coming from and we are always open to talk.”

But, she argued: “Changing the surface to something synthetic won’t make the available play space bigger by not a single square centimetre. Possibly, granted, a bit more useful in the winter months but also baking hot and pretty unpleasant for little ones at the school throughout the sweltering summer months.”

Swiss Gardens pupils and parents before Thursday's meeting

Ms Wild suggested that transforming the school car park into a play space would be a good option.

Parents have also put forward a proposal for a ‘hybrid’ surface of grass and artificial grass.

Mr Dunn said social media had contributed to a negative relationship between all parties.

“Facebook is good for finding cats but not so good for things like this,” he said.

“Being candid, I don’t think it’s entirely the council’s fault that things haven’t gone very smoothly.”

He announced that the council would be inviting governors to a meeting and is committed that ‘this should not take another six years’.

He said the relationship between the various groups should be ‘reset’ and the council is seeking to stop a ‘them and us position’ with ‘no options off the table’.

Parents were also concerned that the developer could ask for the money back as so much time had passed.

But WSCC officers said it is in the county’s bank account and committed to asking about a meeting ‘the next morning’ to find a way forward.

Green councillors for St Nicolas ward, Gabe Crisp and Julian Shinn, posted a statement about the Meads, which was a key local election issue for them.

They announced ‘full support’ for both ADC’s and WSCC’s decision not to allow synthetic grass.

“This decision is based on a full and robust public consultation and reflects the role which the Meads plays as a popular, natural, and bio-diverse resource for the whole local community,” the statement added.