This was the claim of Dymchurch Parish Council Leader Roger Wilkins last week, in preparation for a meeting on the 28th of April to discuss proposals to build ten houses on the recreation ground at Dymchurch.
Roger told The Looker: “We have been trying to get a pavilion for the ground for a number of years and have been unable to raise the finance for this project, so we are looking at proposals that could help finance this. This is in no way a done deal, we are just looking at options that could lead us to having a smart pavilion and community room. The space is huge there and at the end of the day it may come to nothing, we are just looking at options”.
However, an outcry on Facebook has claimed that the council are ‘intent on selling of our villages green space,’ although claims that 10 or even 20 houses are proposed have been dismissed by the Councillor who added: “To reiterate, we are looking at options and a lot will depend on KCC as to whether we are allowed to have a roadway entrance to the houses by the railway level crossing.”
Charlotte Emma posted on Facebook: ‘Some people moved to this area for green space and don’t want to look out over a housing estate, it’s the only decent park in Dymchurch and somewhere to go with children that don’t cost an absolute fortune! Youngsters do hang around in the rec sometimes playing a bit of music and make a bit of noise but I’ve lived here 17 years and they’ve never caused problems at least there not committing crime and staying out of trouble.
This is a village full of elderly and retired people, who are genuinely bored or lonely who go walk their dogs here, they can’t walk on the beach for the half the year. Why not build elsewhere, these houses are not for the community it’s to make money. If the rec is not being used to its full potential why are they building a new sports pavilion. Why not build the sports pavilion and make more use of the rec without taking half of it away? Roger DeHaan and other funding sources put a lot of money into the rec for half of it to be taken away. And once they build 10, they build another ten then before you know it it will be one big estate. Dymchurch is a village and should stay a village!! Not happy’.
Andy Prenter however, had another opinion saying: ‘This just shows how things get out of hand quickly. From what I understand this will help to ensure that we have a nice small sports pavilion so maybe we can have a football team use our recreation space again. It’s not the end of the world I just hope they make sure they are affordable houses and designated to local people. Or maybe even council houses?’
When The Looker contacted the Clerk for an official response, we were delighted when Gill Smith gave us this full account of the actions being investigated, she said; “The parish council has tried, unsuccessfully over the years, to obtain grants to build a new pavilion at the recreation ground. Dymchurch being a small village with a population to match is no competition for larger towns that are also competing for the same pot of money. Hence the money goes to where more people will use such a facility.
In order to raise money to fund new facilities in the village the parish council has considered potential use of its assets. The pavilion no longer meets Equality Act compliance and sporting teams no longer make use of the recreation ground. The recreation ground is considered to be about 11 acres in size and the parish council is considering the possibility of developing up to 2 acres to raise funds for a new pavilion/sports centre, with increased facilities and the remainder of the site will remain a recreation ground.
Pavilion buildings have had their day, they cater for 22 people playing cricket and football only. The parish council would like to see greater facilities for more people, such as a squash court, badminton court, perhaps netball and basketball marked out and a small gym. This is where single people can go or have a game of squash with a friend, not wait for 22 people to agree to have a match and have a building left empty for most of the time.
Before any plans can be produced, the parish council needs to consult with Kent Highways to determine if access to the site is acceptable. Kent Highways can only determine access if a sketch is drawn outlining a potential plan. This is the stage we are at. A sketch has been drawn to discuss with KCC. A meeting is being proposed sometime in April, date not yet agreed, and we will know more after this meeting.
If KCC give a positive response, the next stage will be to consult with the Local Planning Authority to seek their views on a small development at the site. Again, if this receives a positive response then the parish council will seek a valuation on the potential development area. The key question will then be, will it attract the sum of money required to provide improved facilities in the village? It is only when these three main issues are explored that the council will consider the possibility of developing a small area of the recreation ground and have plans drawn accordingly.
The parish council has been made aware by many residents that there is nothing to do in the village and therefore it is exploring options to provide improved facilities. As explained earlier, a small village has no chance of Government funding and has to raise the entire amount itself. If residents can think of alternative ways to raise over £1M we will be delighted to receive their suggestions.
I am aware social media has condemned the parish council for exploring improvements to the village, but it has to consider options that will provide opportunities to make the village a better place to live and socialise in.
The parish council is hoping to have a response from KCC regarding the first stage of this process by 28th April and we will share this information at the annual parish meeting to be held at 7pm on 28th April at the village hall.”