Children take stand to save Canterbury's Kingsmead playing field
SCHOOLCHILDREN Orla Lineham Fox and Timmy Pettman took on the might of the city council in a battle to save their playing field.
The pupils from St Stephen's Junior School stood in front of the Canterbury Area Members Panel on last Monday night at the city's Guildhall in a last-ditch bid to save Kingsmead Field from being used for housing.
Orla, 10, told the meeting: "It's not just for me and my friends but for all the people of the area who live and breathe better because there is a lovely empty green field nearby."
Timmy, 11, added: "Often in the evenings, I go to the field and play football with my dad and brother. It's very easy to stay indoors and watch TV or play computer games. Please leave our field alone."
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Labour councillor Alan Baldock (Northgate Ward) said: "The passion of the campaigners is phenomenal.
"It shows they really care and have realised the council has been a little bit sneaky. They have inspired these two children to become involved in local politics.
"If we lose this space, how can we trust a judgment made in similar circumstances again?"
Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Alex Perkins Tweeted the following day: "Very impressed by the two brilliant young people who so professionally addressed Canterbury Council last night."
At the stormy meeting, residents accused the council of not consulting them – but council chief executive Colin Carmichael said consultation was carried out in 2004 when a primary school was planned for the site.
The plans fell through when Kent County Council pulled out of the scheme and the land was earmarked for housing instead.
He insisted that the decision had already been made by the council's executive but the move had to be rubber-stamped at the end of this month.
Residents have organised an e-petition – which has already attracted 1,603 signatures – on the council's own website. The petition closes tomorrow (Friday) but has already been signed by enough people to force a debate by the council's overview committee.
The 16 city and county councillors voted unanimously to send the plans to the committee for debate, effectively delaying the scheme.
County councillor Graham Gibbens (Canterbury City North East) demanded a fresh consultation to include health and traffic implications after GP Dr David Pratt from St Stephen's warned that more houses would lead to more traffic pollution.
Liberal Democrat councillor Ida Linfield challenged the council's decision to reclassify the area as "development land" when it was originally classed as recreational land under the Local Government Act.
She said that selling the site to Berkeley Homes in 2006 could have breached the act and suggested that there could be a case for a judicial review.
Mr Carmichael said a report would be prepared for the overview committee on Wednesday, June 13.
After the meeting campaigner Sian Pettman said: "The resounding 'no' vote to residential development from Canterbury's own councillors will place a huge pressure on the executive to respond to public opinion and rethink plans for Kingsmead."
The council has been sent 246 letters of objection, a written petition of more than 650 signatures and the e-petition.