The Parish Council, the Playing Field and the Law

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Playing Equipment

At the Parish Council meeting on Monday (July 24th) much public concern was raised about the conduct of groups of young people on the Playing Field — see yesterday's two articles.

Suggestions were raised about making changes in the field that might help control this behaviour. They were;

  • Fencing off the area behind the Scout/Guide hut to deny access to young people
  • Planting trees/bushes on the bottom left hand corner to push loud/swearing/music playing groups away from nearby gardens
  • Locking the gates in the evening to prevent cars congregating for criminal/anti-social activities

Despite these changes sounding quite reasonable, they are NOT possible for the following reasons;

The Parish Council acquired the playing Field in 1929 from the Tarvin Horticultural Society. It was inaugurated as the King George V Playing Field in 1940 as part of a national movement to commemorate the reign of the King who died in 1936. The change was managed by the National Playing Fields Association, now called Fields in Trust and was intended to give free access to land for sports and recreation for all. For 92 years the charity has worked hard to promote and improve facilities and to defend open space from development. It protects 2608 open public spaces of which 471 are formally designated King George V Playing Fields.

Fields in Trust is a charity and as such must follow the guidelines and rules as laid down in its initial founding document. These state that the land must remain free and open for recreation, and the total area protected must remain unchanged. The King George V Playing Field in Tarvin is itself a Registered Charity, the Trustee is the Parish Council, and it is covered by the same legislation as Fields in Trust. The legislation and guidelines have been questioned a number of times in the past by the Parish Council with their solicitors as new Charity Law has been introduced and the answer has always been the same — no changes to the layout and uses are permitted.

It was suggested at the Parish Council meeting that this advice be ignored and that the changes suggested should be quietly installed — who would know and who would tell? The Parish Clerk replied firmly and with conviction — he would tell. The Parish Council is not an ad hoc body of residents but an elected level of government and as such acts within a set of precise legal rules and a defined code of conduct. As Trustee of the Playing Field, the Parish Council is legally obliged to act according to the rules of the Trust they are there to serve. Breaking those laws could lead to the dismissal of the Council and the Clerk, and would certainly lead to any changes being reversed.
Many Parish Councils have tried to deal with poor behaviour on their playing fields by locking gates in the evening — though this might only affect cars, not people. However, in Tarvin the Tennis Club, the Bowling Club, and Scout and Guide Movement have long standing leases giving them access to their facilities up to 10.00pm. The Parish Council would be very unwilling to restrict the access to these excellent clubs that provide pleasure for so many people. Changing the leases to impose this restriction would be both lengthy and costly.

Given these restrictions on such changes the Parish Council will concentrate on talking to the police for more patrols, for talking to schools and parents about acceptable behaviour and investigating the possibility of putting CCTV on the Field.

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  • confusedoftarvin

    Surely though, the building of the scout and guide hut was a change, as was the children's play areas, benches, fences around the tennis courts and bowling green and the mound of soil for bikes? So a bit of extra planting in one corner and fencing around the hut, in the best interests of its users, is just the same.
    As a footnote, why is it okay for the bowling green and tennis courts to be behind locked fences but not the hut?