Comments do nothing for the young

I WRITE in response to the letter of the week on May 18 entitled Give children the freedom to play by Marguerite Jefferson. Marguerite can see the whole field from her window, yet says she only hears the happy noise of youngsters enjoying themselves co

I WRITE in response to the letter of the week on May 18 entitled 'Give children the freedom to play' by Marguerite Jefferson.

Marguerite can see the whole field from her window, yet says she only hears the happy noise of youngsters enjoying themselves coming from the field, and has only ever once seen three youths over the field late at night. This suggests that she does not look out of her window very often.

We wonder, would these be the same youths who consumed 22 cans of lager in a single night's session and left the cans, crisp packets, broken glass, plastic bottles, and other debris strewn all over the field, for which we have photographic proof. It is no wonder she heard happy noises!

The Friends of St Johns Road Association have never said they were against skate parks and we are not anti-youth; however, we sincerely believe that this small playing field is not the place for such facilities which need to be in a fully controlled and supervised environment. We have on a number of occasions offered to work with the city council to identify a suitable location for these two activities.

The association's objections to this project has always been in relation to the destruction of the only green open space left in the area enjoyed over the years by people of all ages pursuing a number of activities. We gather from her letter she shares the very same sentiments.

If she had taken the trouble to walk but a few yards to the St John's Road School to attend one of our meetings she would have known very much more about the associations aims.

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Marguerite points out the loss of three cinemas, two halls, the corn exchange, a youth club, and an ever open outdoor swimming pool; she asks what has been developed for children in recent years? Well Marguerite, if you were to have a good look around Ely you would find clubs such as football, rugby, badminton, squash, tennis, cricket, bowls both indoor and outdoor, sailing club, all of which actively seek young members, and what about the other facilities available the like of which include: the Octagon Dance Studio in the High Street, Planet Zoom, Strikes 10 Pin bowling, indoor swimming pool for all-year-round use, and the Paradise Sports Centre, not to mention all of the activities available at night classes. Were all these activities available when she was young? We think not.

She also takes a swing at the golf course and says it is for adults, this is just not true. Ely City Golf Course has a very vibrant junior section and is constantly seeking to recruit new young members; you only need to visit the club on a Saturday morning to see youngsters of all ages having lessons on the practice ground. The On Par golf range and course situated on the A10 close to the rugby club also encourages youngsters.

Her comments do nothing to help the young of this city and are only an insult to the people who do promote and provide activities for the young to enjoy.

As for signing a petition, we asked local residents to write to us indicating if they were for or against the council's proposals. Their letters were the basis of our petition and as an individual letter demonstrates how strong the residents feelings were, we did not tout around doors for signatures on a piece of paper.

On the subject of dog's mess, the majority of residents who regularly exercise their dogs on the field are responsible people, and clear up what is left by their dogs, as we are sure Marguerite did when she walked her dog on the same piece of ground not so many years ago.

Yes, the city council should be applauded for trying to implement facilities to help the young, however, if more thought and consideration had been put into this project's preparation it would at this time perhaps not be running several weeks behind schedule, and as much over budget as it is today. The income from grants totalled £73,350; the cost to date has risen to that in excess of £101,000 leaving a shortfall of more than £23,000 for the council to fund as recorded in council minutes.

This is in contradiction to Letter of the Week dated September 22, 2005 by J Roberts, chairman of the City of Ely Youth Council, where we were told "the money comes from landfill tax and I assure you money will not come out of your pockets".

As a result of the facilities being nowhere near complete at this time we wonder what the total overspend will amount too for the Council Tax payer to find. As can be seen if you visit the site today it is an eye-sore and far from complete, the ball court surface has to be re-laid yet again, this will be the third time, necessitating dismantling of the perimeter fencing. As for the skateboard/BMX park, the council has been informed by their chosen contractor that they are experiencing construction difficulties due to unproven structure technology (they have not built one from steel before).

It was suggested by our association that the existing skateboard park at the Paradise Centre be renovated and upgraded at less cost. The city council told us this was not suitable, however, according to their contractor in a report dated Nov 10, 2005 "this will still leave a perfectly useable facility" and "the facility will still leave plenty of room".

As skate parks and ball courts are just passing fads, would it not have been a greater asset to the youth of the city if the city of Ely council had planned to build the facility in an enclosed building with modular wooden ramps wherein other activities could be incorporated both during and after the fad had passed?


Friends of St John's Road Playing Field Association