Holmoak Play Area

Published: 28 January 2020

At the meeting of Tuesday 14th January 2020, Keynsham Town Council finally executed the Deed of transfer to proceed with the adoption of the Holmoak Play Area at Bilbie Green. The Town Council will now own and manage this asset as a play area in perpetuity for the residents of Keynsham.

Readers may remember an article this time last year when the Town Council announced it had made the decision that it could not afford to adopt Holmoak play area.

The Town Clerk explained:"When the original decision to adopt was made in 2013, the Council were under the impression that a s106 payment of approximately £250,000 would be accompanying the adoption in order to cover the requirement to purchase specific mowing equipment and cover the ongoing maintenance costs including additional manpower for a period of 20 years. The transfer of an amenity from a developer to a local authority is normally accompanied by such payments (called “commuted sums”) and is in fact laid down in section 3.6.5. of B&NES Planning Obligations Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) published in April 2015 and amended in 2019".

Having been informed that any s106 payment to the Town Council had not been included in the original s106 agreement between B&NES and the developer, the Town Council announced its intention not to proceed with the adoption a year ago, which would mean the residents of Bilbie Green would have to pay a management company to maintain it via an increase in their service charges.

The Town Clerk further explained: “The decision to adopt a piece of land in perpetuity requires both capital and ongoing annual revenue expenditure, including building reserves to ultimately replace the equipment every 20 years. The Town Council currently manages several play areas on repairing leases from B&NES including Upper and Lower Memorial Park, Downfields, Park Road, Kelston Park, Manor Road and Teviot Road. The leases are due to expire in 2028 at which time the Council either has to return the play areas in good condition to B&NES or enter into another leasehold arrangement for a further term. Either way, given the last major refurbishment of the play areas happened in 2001, the Town Council is legally obligated to refurbish/replace the existing equipment before 2028 and, over the last two years has included provision to build ear-marked reserves for this purpose when setting the budget as art of its long term financial management strategy

Play equipment is not cheap – it cost the Council just under £11,000 to replace the broken 4-seat junior swing in Memorial Park last year and £110,000 has been budgeted for the planned refurbishment of the Kelston Park play area later this year with money provided by B&NES (£70,000) , the Town Council (£15,000)and a grant from Enovert Community Trust (£25,000). At the time the Council could not justify takin on more expenditure, especially when immediate capital works would have been required to comply with the landscape management plan for the area".

Chairman Councillor Andy Wait continued: "The Council has been mindful of the impact the decision not to adopt would have on the Bilbie Green residents and has received several communications from them and the B&NES Ward Councillors on the subject.

Since it’s announcement last year, the Town Council has been involved in confidential discussions with the developers to reach a mutually acceptable agreement which includes resolution of other outstanding issues including reinstatement of hedging boundaries, replacement of dead saplings, and alterations to the actual boundary – additional expenses that the Town Council could have been liable for had the developer not agreed to do this work.

Owing to a change in hours and responsibilities of the existing Grounds Maintenance team, the Town Council will be able to recruit the additional resource required to manage the Council’s expanding portfolio of green spaces at a much lower cost than forecast this time last year. It was also able to take advantage of a special deal last summer to trade in the tractor used at Manor Rd for a road-registered mower that can mow both Manor Road and Holmoak and travel between the two on the public highway".

Councillor Wait concluded: "It is very important to our residents that existing Recreational and Green Space areas are maintained/improved and new ones created as the Town continues to expand. The Town Council is now setting aside an amount each year from the precept to build its earmarked reserve specifically for its play area refurbishment and is currently working with B&NES on a strategy for management and maintenance of all Recreational and Green Spaces in Keynsham. This will also include the use of s106 and Community Infrastructure Levy Funding collected by B&NES from Keynsham developments. Residents need to be aware however, that any decision by the Town Council to adopt more amenities and services means the ongoing maintenance costs will, of necessity, need to be funded by the precept collected annually from Keynsham council tax payers".

For further information please visit the Town Council’s website www.keynsham-tc.gov.uk or contact: Dr Cheryl Scott, Town Clerk at Keynsham Town Council, 15-17 Temple Street, Keynsham, Bristol BS31 1HF, telephone 01225 395951 or e-mail: townclerk@keynsham-tc.gov.uk