Agenda item

Petitions - "the closure and change of use for the Millpond site at Bewbush and the site at Cherry Lane, Langley Green'

This item seeks consideration of a petition, submitted as an e-petition via a third party provider that was received by the Council’s Petitions Officer. The petition contains over 1000 valid signatures and as such is required to be debated at Full Council.


The Full Council is asked to consider report LDS/174 by the Council’s Petition Officer which details the petition "On the closure and change of use for the Millpond site at Bewbush and the site at Cherry Lane, Langley Green” and the procedure for considering the petition including that in accordance with the Council’s Petition Scheme, the Full Council has a maximum of 30 minutes at each meeting to consider petitions. Within this time the Principal Petitioner will be given five minutes to present the petition to the Council and the remaining time will be for the Council to consider the petition.






The Full Council considered an e-petition, submitted via and in a CSV format, received by the Council’s Petitions Officer.  As the petition contained over 1000 (approximately 1950) valid signatures it was required to be debated by Full Council.  The petition stated as follows “On the closure and change of use for the Millpond site at Bewbush and the site at Cherry Lane, Langley Green”.


“Please find attached the completed petition representing people’s views regarding the closure and change of use for both the Millpond site at Bewbush and the site at Cherry Lane, Langley Green”


Councillors were informed that as the Full Council was the decision maker regarding the changes to the Adventure Playgrounds as a clearly identifiable saving within the Budget setting report and therefore, the Full Council retained the decision making power in respect of the petition before them. The Deputy Mayor reminded Members that the Constitution limits debates on petitions to 30 minutes per meeting.


Natalie Campbell, the Principal Petitioner, presented the petition to the Full Council (the presentation is attached as Appendix B to these minutes).


Councillor C Mullins, as Cabinet Member for Wellbeing addressed the meeting, thanking the Principal Petitioner for submitting the petition.  Councillor C Mullins, then made the following points including:


·         Reiterated it was a difficult decision to make but the council was in a challenging financial situation as a result of the pandemic.

·         It was planned to ‘mothball’ two sites, with others as unsupervised.  It was noted that the staffing figure was not attainable.

·         The unsupervised sites would mean that there would be more available.

·         It was acknowledged that the service was governed by the HSE and has to ensure that the standard of equipment meets the highest specification.

·         Following the serious accident a few years’ ago at Cherry Lane adventure playground all equipment was removed, albeit equipment that had been passed by the HSE.  In order to meet safety standards equipment costs are in excess of £200,000 per site and consequently refurbishment programme and equipment costs are not feasible.


The Deputy Mayor then opened the debate to the floor.


Councillor Crow’s comments included –

·         Covid has changed how services are run.

·         Health and safety has changed and affected ways of working and it now becomes more expensive to provide a service.

·         It is not a decision that the Council wanted to take, it was a decision that resulted from public consultation. Preserving weekly bin collection was a greater priority for the Council but other options could come forward and be costed, then those should be investigated. 


Councillor Jones’ comments included –

·         Never wanted to reduce services and some difficult decisions had to be made.

·         Cabinet Members had been responsive to residents and ward Councillors.

·         Wanted to maintain Millpond to remain open as a play area.

·         There was a balance to be made between the concerns with what could be achieved.

·         There would be an outreach play service that would go out to areas across the Borough.

·         There was a need to see what possibilities were with community groups taking over the remaining sites and would be an interesting opportunity to explore.


Councillor Lanzer’s comments included –

·         Despite the amount of additional Covid funding, the severity of the financial situation should not be underestimated.

·         The ability to maintain the sites proved costly.

·         It was remarked again that each playground attendance costs the taxpayer £30 and there had been a 68% reduction in attendance sine 2002/2003 and that to keep all 4 adventure playgrounds open would cost £500,000 of initial investment to bring them up to standard.  

·         Any community group or commercial enterprise that enters into this process with the facts as an investment would be required to bring the adventure playgrounds up to the required standard particularly in the area of health and safety.  Plus an ongoing commitment to either fund attendance to £30 per head (if all 4 sites were opened) or a combination of charging. 

·         There was full consultation on the budget prior to February 2021, and the refuse collection service there was held in high regard but there is an opportunity for this Council to lead on this (particularly now whilst in tight political control). There would be a time when switching to fortnightly collections was inevitable, which would increase recycling and also provide a saving which could be used on other services.


Councillor S Mullins’ comments included –

·         Passionate about the adventure playgrounds, they were important now and in the future.  But we need to be practical. The budget and finances make for poor reading and books need to balanced. 

·         Biggest complaint received about the adventure playgrounds, was that ‘when I go they were closed’. The compromise was the unsupervised sites as the equipment and sites will still be there for use.


Councillor Fiveash’s comments included –

·         Adventure playgrounds are vital in Crawley and the decision to close Bewbush was taken too quickly. To keep Waterlea open and Bewbush closed just defied logic given the numbers within the deprived neighbourhoods.

·         Furnace Green residents have Tilgate Park a few minutes’ walk away.

·         The community want them back and want to run them for the benefit of the community so the people who are passionate about the sites are available and we need to listen to the people we claim to represent.

·         Losing these provisions increases youth crime.


Councillor B Burgess’ comments included –

·         The parents benefit as well from attending the play sites.

·         Think there is an opportunity to outsource the provision of the play service.


The Deputy Mayor informed the Full Council that the 30 minutes was about to end and as such the last speaker on the petition, would be the Leader of the Council. 


Councillor Lamb’s comments included –

·         Clear from debate that this issue means a lot to the town.  The sites were a premier attraction for children in the town. Unfortunately, times have changed and levels of use have reduced. 

·         Consultation took place during a pandemic however it did cover the whole town and received the highest levels of feedback.

·         There was a legal requirement to balance the budget.

·         A community group could take over the sites the council will work with the groups to look towards this possibility, however they would need to meet all legislative and regulatory requirements including health and safety.  Sites that are not staying open are being ‘mothballed’, two sites to become unsupervised.

·         There had been heightened correspondence on this matter, of which they made it clear that there were two sites that have been paramount in people’s minds that is Cherry Lane and the Millpond.


Councillor Lamb in closing the petition debate then moved a recommendation Option D – Make any other recommendations relating to the petition to the Full Council for its consideration. He proposed as his alternative option that the original Full Council decision that Cherry Lane and Waterlea be retained for unsupervised play, be changed, namely, that Cherry Lane and the Millpond be retained as unsupervised play.


He commented part of the rationale behind this Option D proposal was down to the heightened correspondence he and others had received over the importance of retaining both Cherry Lane and the Millpond.


Councillor C Mullins’ then seconded the proposal.


The Deputy Mayor then invited members to put forward alternative options for the Full Council to vote upon.


Councillor Crow’s comments included –

·         Would support Option B.  The option to switch which sites and equipment would be remaining is a larger body of work. Option D had not been scrutinised, there was no evidence and discussion or public consultation. It would not be good governance.

·         Option B would still allow this approach and could allow further scrutiny to take place and the decision being taken in November.


Councillor Ali’s comments included –

·         Good gesture to keep sites open but just to switch sites at the last minute was not a fair decision and has not included any public consultation.  The people that use Waterlea believe that site will be kept open.


Councillor Ayling’s comments included

·         Attended the Millpond and upon speaking to the parents they were able to voice their dissatisfaction.  The site was well used and the children were enjoying the facilities.

·         Had a public meeting to discuss options and we are aware of the financial implications but need to find a way forward.


Councillor McCarthy’s comments included –

·         It was unfair to switch a play area where people aren’t represented in the chamber. The proposal moved has not had any scrutiny and the geographical implications have not been considered. 


The Deputy Mayor then invited the Head of Legal, Governance and HR as the Monitoring Officer to confirm what had been moved during the debate and provided any advice he feels was necessary. The Monitoring Officer, addressed the meeting stating that the ‘proposal moved by Councillor Lamb and seconded by Councillor C Mullins proposed making changes to sites made by Full Council in February 2021 as part of identified savings. More than 6 months had passed so it was possible to make a change as long as it was a Full Council decision. Point has been made about scrutiny, options B and C were in the report about referring to Cabinet and to have some detailed considerations of data, financial implications, health and safety and equality impact assessments which may arise from whatever course of action is taken.  It is an opportunity to obtain professional advice from officers in the form of a report.  By taking a decision tonight, which is the proposal, (Option D), Councillors would be making a decision based on the information acquired tonight during the course of the debate. The risk of that was there may be some material considerations which may be missed. It is difficult at this point to assess what those material considerations might be.  The Deputy Mayor, as the Chair will take a view as to whether members are equipped to make the decision and members should be encouraged to do the same. Members should be reminded that within the Code of Conduct members are encouraged to use best evidence when making decisions.’


Councillor Crow then formally moved Option B to refer the matter back to Cabinet which could potentially look at the switching of sites, but not predetermine it. Councillor McCarthy seconded the proposal.


The Deputy Mayor called for votes on the proposals as to how to respond to the petition, and the votes would occur in the order that they had been moved during the debate. Clarity was also then provided to the Principal Petitioner and the public present as to what was happening, in terms of what each of the proposals being voted upon would mean in practical terms.


The Deputy Mayor stated that as there were multiple options moved it would not be possible for an unanimous decision on the petition. So in line Council Procedure Rule F.4, all votes on the petitions were required to be a recorded vote.


The Deputy Mayor invited the Democracy and Data Manager to administer the recorded vote on Councillor Lamb’s proposal of Option D and the alternative recommendation that the original decision that Cherry Lane and Waterlea be retained for unsupervised play, be changed by Council, namely that Cherry Lane and the Millpond be retained as unsupervised play.


Voting in Favour: Councillors: Ayling, Buck, Fiveash, Flack, Irvine, Jhans, Nawaz, Jones, Khan, Lamb, Lunnon, Malik, C Mullins, S Mullins, Pickett, Raja, B Smith,

P Smith (18)


Voting Against

Councillors Ali, A Belben, T Belben, Bounds, B J Burgess, B G Burgess, Burrett, Crow, Eade, Jaggard, Lanzer, McCarthy, Millar-Smith, Morris, Mwagale, Peck, Pendlington, Piggott (18).


Abstentions: (0)


Having put it to the vote which resulted in a tie, the Deputy Mayor used her casting vote to vote in support of the proposal, moved by Councillor Lamb.




That the Council approves Option D, an alternative recommendation that its original decision that Cherry Lane and Waterlea be retained for unsupervised play, be changed, namely that Cherry Lane and the Millpond be retained as unsupervised play.




Councillor Burrett raised a point of order, and asked that it be recorded over the decision taken by the Full Council, that ‘this Council has now taken a decision without a relevant report and without the regard of taking officer advice. Where does that leave that decision?’


The Monitoring Officer reconfirmed that the interpretation of the Constitution was down to the Chair, the Deputy Mayor, and as a result the Full Council has proceeded with approving the proposal and thus made a valid decision.



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