GOLDSWORTH Park Centre visitors, shoppers and residents could face a disappointing summer if plans to remove a popular play facility go ahead.
Proposals are in place to take out the existing seating and play area just outside Waitrose, which has been in use for more than 30 years, to make way for a Costa coffee shop at Unit 5, with outdoor seating in the courtyard.
The designated play facility was built in 1983 along with Waitrose and the parade of shops. Sadly, though, the little piece of history is likely to soon be gone, along with lots of memories.
Councillor Hilary Addison told the News & Mail: “Obviously I would like it to stay. I remember my child playing there as a boy. It will be sad if it goes.”
The news only came about because council planning officer David Raper contacted Costa to query their reasons for removing the play equipment.
In doing so he was informed that the coffee outlet are leaseholders and the decision was that of London company, Ropemaker Properties, who own the freehold of the land on Denton Way.
He explained: “It transpires the applicant had been planning to remove the play area before the Costa application was submitted, and is unrelated.
“Having looked at the history of the site, it appears the play area is not protected by any conditions. And, as it could theoretically be removed at any time, I would not be able to base a refusal on it.
“I would therefore be looking to recommend approval and deal with the application, unless it is called to committee.”
The property firm bought the land relatively recently, in November 2012, and the shops are leasehold.
Cllr Addison added: “I have called the issue to committee. It is a difficult one because the council don’t own the land.”
The area has been enjoyed by generations of children, including those using the nearby community centre such as Brownies, Beavers, Rainbows and St Andrew’s Church goers.
But Jessica Petrie, of London managing agents Jones Lang Lasalle, informed the council officer: “Shortly after our client’s purchase of the scheme, JLL and a representative from Ropemaker Properties took a joint site inspection during which we identified concerns that the play equipment poses a constant health and safety risk and the possibility of accidents.
“We undertake regular ins-pections and have discussed the subject with the tenants.
“All those we spoke to advised they would rather the play area was removed due to potential risks. In light of our client’s concerns, JLL’s concerns and the occupiers’ feedback, our client has confirmed instructions for JLL to arrange removal of the equipment in the medium term.
“As the play area/climbing frame is within the landlord-demised common parts, the decision is at our client’s discretion. Costa wish to provide a small area of external seating set back in the common courtyard.”
Finding it hard to believe that after three decades, the popular play area has suddenly been condemned because the equipment ‘poses a constant health and safety risk’, individuals against the plans have started their own investigations.
They say no one who they have asked can recall any incidents of serious injuries.
And as for the claim that tenants want the play facility to go, Chairman of Goldsworth Park Community Association, Irene Watson, is in the process of visiting them. The agent’s claims have yet to be confirmed.
It also prompted Irene to question why the ‘dangerous’ equipment could not simply be replaced.
She said: “A replacement would be fine. As far as we can find out, there have never been any serious injuries in the play area. We are hoping we can change their minds and keep it.” Councillor Amanda Coulson added: “We can’t review the application based on the play area, but if enough people feel strongly about it, maybe the property company will change their minds. I cannot see why we can’t have both as the space lends itself to it.”
“We are hoping to put a petition together to urge the company not to go ahead. We, as a community, don’t want it to go.
“The statement by the property company’s agent is basically false. It is rubbish.
“I am well aware the area is not part of the remit of the Costa coffee shop application.
“I am hoping the owners heed enough warning that the community will be very upset if they remove it.”
Surrey County Councillor Saj Hussain added that he was very concerned by the bad news.
He said: “Children are always playing there. I absolutely support residents – we will do whatever it takes to keep it.”
Woking MP Jonathan Lord is totally behind his constituents. He said: “This little play area is loved by the kids and allows parents a little rest during shopping.
“I think it would be a great shame to lose it and I am looking forward to working with local people to see if we can save it.
“My six-year-old daughter has enjoyed playing there over the years and would be very sorry to see it go.”