The following report was prepared by Sheffield City Council officers on the proposed skate park on the car park of the playing fields at Occupation Lane.
Report to Members for Birley and Beighton Wards regarding the proposed skate park at Occupation Lane.
Since the inception of the South East Community Assembly in 2009 consultation has consistently shown that improved facilities for young people and improved parks are a high priority for people in the South East of the city.
The South East of Sheffield does not have a district park and many of the small playgrounds that accompanied the building of new estates were poorly planned and located and have been damaged by vandalism.
In 2010 the South East Community Assembly responded to this challenge by funding a parks strategy to look at where future investment could be most effectively targeted. The strategy concluded that there was a need for a skate park facility in the South East and provided a number of options:
At present there are no skate parks in the South East of Sheffield despite many requests from young people for such a facility. The demand for these facilities has been demonstrated by issues with the construction of illegal sites in woods and inappropriate use of scooters/ skateboards in areas such as Crystal Peaks car park. The Owlthorpe Community Forum has requested a site because of concerns about young people constructing sites that are often dangerous and damage the local environment. Local MP Clive Betts has long championed the need for a skate facility in the area.
The South East has 16,000 young people aged up to nineteen years old. Recent consultation by the South East Youth Panel showed that a skate park was young people’s number one request. Of 162 young people spoken to 98 said a skate park was the provision they thought young people would most like. At present young people are faced with a choice of finding or creating their own location for use of BMX, scooters and skateboards (with the consequences already mentioned) or travelling across the city.
On April 5th 2012 the South East Community Assembly agreed to allocate £25,000 of its discretionary budget towards the development of a skate park. Assembly officers then began to liaise with colleagues in the Parks department to identify a suitable site.
The site at Occupation Lane was one of the sites identified in the parks strategy and was identified as the initial preferred site on the basis that it was:
a) Central within the South East given that there was only funding for one facility
b) A site already designated for recreation with a concrete base from an old car park that could be used for such a facility
c) An open well lit site
d) A site separated from houses by a road on two sides and fields on the other two sides
Officers have always known that there was never going to be a perfect site but this site appeared to have potential to make a successful facility.
Members agreed to investigate this proposal further and Birley Members agreed to allocate £25,000 of the Section 106 money available from the redevelopment of the SWaN (Scowerdons, Weakland and Newstead) estates to the project subject to local consultation.
2. The Proposal
The proposal is to place ramps on the old park area of the site. These ramps would be fire proof and made of noise resistant material and have the advantage of being removable if necessary.
In addition it is proposed to gate off the site allowing access only for maintenance work on the site such as emptying of bins and checking of equipment.
Following concerns about potential anti-social behaviour Members have agreed to fund a CCTV camera to be permanently positioned on site from which the local Safer Neighbourhood Team would be able to access images were any incidents reported.
3. Local consultation
Letters were delivered on August 6th and 7th to 248 properties in the immediate vicinity of the site. Officers first knocked on resident’s doors and where there was no response posted letters enclosing a freepost envelope.
Springwater Ave 1 – 21
Occupation Lane 112 – 116, 134 – 138
Sheffield Rd 150 – 154
Cranford Drive 1 – 48
Barnsdale Ave 1 – 24
Redbrook Croft 1 – 12
Redbrook Grove 1 – 11
Wilthorpe Gardens 1 – 16
Blaxton Close 1 – 7
Cranford Court 1 – 14
Halycon Close 1 – 8
Cotleigh Place 1 – 10
Cotleigh Way 1 – 12
Cotleigh Close 1 – 12
Ryhill Drive 1 – 15
Melton Grove 1 – 18
Blaxton Close 1 – 9
Brampton Court 1 – 9
126 replies were received of which 72 were in favour and 54 against. We have had some queries about the distribution of these letters but a 50% response rate suggests that this was carried out effectively.
It is disappointing that some residents have claimed the letter was delivered to ‘selected addresses’. It is hard to understand on what basis this selection could have been made.
Following this letter drop a site meeting for residents was held on August 15th where a number of concerns were raised. Following the site meeting it was agreed to hold a public meeting. The meeting was advertised by posting letters to the addresses previously mentioned.
This meeting was held at Christ Church, Hackenthorpe on September 26th 2012. At the meeting 3 petitions were presented.
a) A petition with 68 signatures was handed in saying:
‘We the undersigned strongly object to the siting of the proposed BMX park on the old car park at the junction of Occupation Lane and Sheffield Road.
We strongly object because we feel the sight is dangerously close to the tram track with no provision for a pelican crossing. It will not be supervised or policed and it will encourage the throwing of rocks from the tram tracks at the Supertram and at nearby properties which is an ongoing problem in the area. Add to this the problem of youths throwing rocks at other children and you have a recipe for disaster.
There would also be the issue of noise to the nearby residential housing on a daily basis.
Over the last 4 years Owlthorpe Community Forum has worked hard to eradicate anti-social behaviour which used to blight the area and keep it litter free and safe. It would be sad to see all this good work undermined by the introduction of this BMX park.
b) A petition with 38 signatures was handed in saying:
‘Petition against the creation of a skate/ BMX park in what is currently a car park, adjacent to the tram stop, main road and the playing fields (Occupation Lane/ Sheffield Road)
c) A petition with 279 names was handed in saying:
‘Petition for a bike/ skateboarding park in the South East of Sheffield. I agree that a skateboarding park should be built in the South East of Sheffield.
• The skateboarding/ bike park would engage young people in positive activities
• It would also engage young people into exercise adding to the benefits of a healthy living
At the meeting a series of concerns were raised by local residents about safety, parking and anti-social behaviour.
Officers were asked to look further into concerns about the effect the facility could have on parking locally. Clive Betts MP proposed that the skate park should go ahead with a public review meeting held after several months on the basis that the proposed ramps were removable and the site would be covered by CCTV.
Councillor Bryan Lodge asked officers to consider the issues raised at the meeting and draw up a report for Councillors.
4. Issues raised
a) Anti-social behaviour
A number of residents are concerned that the proposed facility will increase anti-social behaviour (ASB). There are particular concerns about people throwing stones from the tram tracks following previous incidents of this kind. The Safer Neighbourhood Team was active in tackling this issue and that of arson locally some years ago. As the first petition confirms anti-social behaviour has reduced in recent years (‘Over the last 4 years Owlthorpe Community Forum has worked hard to eradicate anti-social behaviour which used to blight the area’).
The Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNT) statistics show that in the twelve months from August 2011 to August 2012 there were:
• 4 incidents of ASB/ Criminal Damage on Occupation Lane
• 38 cases of ASB in Owlthorpe including 10 for rowdy/ inconsiderate behaviour
The SNT do not consider the area a ‘hot spot’ and do not oppose the proposal. They welcome the proposal for CCTV in the area.
With or without this facility the area may experience anti-social behaviour. The SNT have demonstrated their ability to respond to this when it arises. It is understandable that residents who have experienced past traumatic incidents will be wary of a new facility however it should not be assumed that young people coming to use the facility will cause anti-social behaviour. The counter argument is that facilities provide a healthy outlet for activity deterring anti-social behaviour from young people saying they have nothing to do.
Ultimately the proposal is part of a commitment to engage positively with local young people with a further commitment to tackle unacceptable behaviour wherever it arises. The removable nature of the equipment and the installation of CCTV both provide safeguards should the site lead to problematic behaviour.
Regarding concerns about noise based anti-social behaviour; one of the skate companies has carried out noise testing on their ramps which demonstrated that above a 15m radius no reading could be detected above ambient noise levels (of 55db). None of the surrounding houses are within this distance of the proposed ramps.
I discussed the skate park proposal with this some young people at the Com.unity centre in Westfield recently. They suggested that young people could visit the area to make sure the site was being appropriately used and that young people alongside workers such as Sheffield Futures staff or PCSO’s could visit local homes to see how things were progressing with the site.
Residents have questioned the safety of installing equipment in the vicinity of a main road and tram tracks.
The site is currently in use and open to all as recreational space and no current concerns have been raised about its safety or the ability to safely access via crossing tram tracks or crossing the road, which can be crossed using a signalised crossing around 200 metres away.
The red star is the proposed facility location and the blue star is the existing crossing provision
As part of the assessment of the project proposed the Parks department sought health and safety advice on the site. The advice was that there were no safety issues with siting ramps on the site as there was a safe pavement access to the site entrances and clear crossings across the tram tracks. Advice was given about the need to:
• Provide seating to deter people sitting on the fence
• Prevent access other than for maintenance staff
• Provide signage to make clear that there is no access for car drivers
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE) and the Primary Care Trust (PCT) were made aware of the proposal and asked for their views. Whist neither organisation wished to formally give a view for or against neither raised objections to the scheme.
SYPTE gave a statement, which said:
‘SYPTE believes that the proposed Skatepark development in Hackenthorpe would have no impact on the operation of the Supertram service’
The public health lead for the area said that in general terms they supported initiatives that encourage physical activity.
Residents raised concerns both about loss of parking and lack of parking.
At present some people use the old car for parking when dropping people off/ picking them up or when walking dogs. The site is not an official car park and football matches have not been played on the site for a number of years. This parking would no longer be possible.
The proposed installation of a gate would both prevent current potential safety issues of drivers crossing tram tracks and restrict access for those on off road bikes or quad bikes. If in addition warning signs to deter off road bikes need to be installed this can be done as it has been on many other sites contributing to a reduction of incidents in recent years.
Other concerns are around the parking of those using the site, particularly those bringing children. In the main it is expected that most young people will use the site independently and will use their bikes/ boards/ scooters to help them get there. Other skate park sites such in the city do not routinely provide parking.
However it is likely that there would be occasions where some parents would bring and stay with children and thus need to park. It is hard to estimate how many cars this would involve. It is likely that those parking would drive up Occupation Lane. The first legitimate area to park is on Springwater Avenue and it would appear that the road would allow some space for safe parking.
It may be if there was future illegal/ unhelpful parking that the Assembly could address this through its Small Highways schemes budget. We already have a request to look at parking around the top of Sheffield Road around Christ Church.
As part of any development the Assembly team will distribute key contact numbers to local residents to report any issues to the appropriate services.
Members are asked to consider the following options:
a) Proceed with development at Occupation Lane
The skate park is installed at the Occupation Lane site, monitored closely by services and formally reviewed after three months.
b) Alternative sites in Birley ward
An alternative site is identified in Birley ward. The other site identified in the Parks strategy in the ward was the East Glade area of the Scowerdons estate. This site would require a large amount of investment to prepare the area for such a facility. In addition starting a new consultation process would cause delays, which would almost certainly mean the project could not be delivered in this financial year and funds would be lost.
The Dyke Vale area mentioned in consultation is being developed by Sheffield Homes. The area directly backs on to houses as does the land at the other end of Scowerdons near the football pitch.
c) Alternative sites outside Birley ward
Sites outside Birley ward would not be eligible for the Section 106 funds and thus the amount of facilities provided would be minimal.
d) No skate park
Councillors could choose not to go ahead with the provision of a skate park with funds reallocated.
My recommendation is to proceed with option A and to install the skate park on Occupation Lane.
Dave Luck, Community Assembly Manager, South East. October 8th 2012