Volunteers urge town council to help save treasured Cullompton park

Cullompton Community Association chairman Ashley Wilce at the CCA Fields

Cullompton Community Association chairman Ashley Wilce at the CCA Fields

First published in Devon by

A TREASURED public park in Cullompton could be lost unless the volunteer group set up to maintain it gets a funding boost. Cullompton Community Association is calling on the town council to support the upkeep of the CCA Fields by raising its share of next year’s council tax by £1 per household.

Last month’s flooding caused damage to bridges and play equipment in the 33-acre park, which the CCA says it cannot afford to repair on top of general maintenance costs.

CCA chairman Ashley Wilce met Cullompton Mayor Gordon Guest to highlight the severity of the group’s funding crisis before the town council gathered for a key budget meeting last night (Thursday).

Councillors were told to consider a raft of on-going and future costs around the town before the deadline to submit precept rises to Mid Devon District Council on January 25. Currently, the town’s precept stands at £145,000 – almost £23,000 lower than Honiton, which is of a similar size and benefits from £167,931 a year.

Originally obtained by the public in the 1970s, the CCA Fields are the only sizeable public space in Cullompton for leisure use, yet the volunteer association receives a reliable income of just £1,000 a year from Cullompton Rangers Football Club, and that does not even cover the £2,000 needed to mow the grass. Other income is generated through public events during the year, but everything is at the mercy of the weather and cancellations are common.

Mr Wilce said: “The CCA has operated at a loss for the past three years and we’re close to reaching a crisis point.

“Without a regular and reliable source of operating capital we may have to consider not cutting the grass and limiting access to the fields, or else seek to pass total responsibility for them on to a public body.

“We recognise that it’s an additional cost for the taxpayer, but you get nothing for nothing. “If residents want to continue to use the fields we need them to contribute a small amount – we’ll do the rest.”

He said the group tried to obtain a grant for essential maintenance earlier this year from the Town and Parish Fund, set up by the district council and county council, but was disappointed to find that the town council had claimed the entire pot for this year’s Christmas lights display.

Cllr Guest’s response was that the council received the funding by default as it was the only body to apply for it.

“Had they said they wanted to apply at the same time we’d have looked at what we could have done, but we had a deadline to get our bid in by and got it in,” said Cllr Guest.

“My reaction as Mayor is that Mr Wilce and the CCA have a legitimate request and it’ll be discussed by the council.

“Considering that we’re talking about 33 acres of land right next to the town centre it’s clearly an important amenity for residents.”

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