Villagers receive ‘a real blow’ over play area lease

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RESIDENTS face losing the only recreational ground in their village after the landowner gave the parish council notice to vacate.

For more than 30 years, Ingham Parish Council has leased the Playmeadow, behind St Bartholomew’s Church, for a peppercorn rent of £1 a year.

It contains play equipment for young villagers and, among other events, it is used to host the popular annual village fete which now includes a day of activities as well as an evening of entertainment.

But at the start of January, the Spitfle family, who own the land, gave the council notice to quit immediately. The council is currently seeking legal advice.

Council chairman Vic Blackwood said the landowner had offered a new lease at ‘a rate that was commercially unviable’ – £40,000 over 10 years.

“Unfortunately, it looks like we could be losing it,” he said.

Margaret Hobbs, 67, has lived in Ingham since 1975. Her children are grown up but she said they used the play area when they were younger.

“There’s plenty of young children in the village and plenty more to be born so there is a need for it – we do feel it should be kept for the village,” she said.

Resident Jo Wither, 37, said she enjoyed taking her two young children to use the slide and climbing frame at the Playmeadow.

“It’s a shame because it’s a lovely piece of land,” she said.

Villager Jackie Cook, 68, said the annual village fete would have to be scaled back if the village lost use of the land.

“It would be a shame because they have this band on there as well as the fete – they really make a day of it and the churchyard’s not really big enough,” she said.

Council vice-chairman Keith Boswell said the council could raise a certain amount of money to lease the land but that Mrs Spitfle would need to come up with ‘a more realistic figure’.

“We’re hoping Mrs Spitfle will realise that it’s a very useful resource for the village,” he said.

Mrs Spitfle declined to comment on the Playmeadow and on her reasons for wanting to change the status quo.