Rutland County Council could remove play equipment in Whissendine

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A COUNCIL which provided thousands of pounds for new village play equipment is now considering legal action to have it removed.

Rutland County Council gave more than £47,000 for the facilities in Whissendine from a £12,500 Government Playbuilder grant and a £35,000 donation from a housing developer.

The equipment was installed by Whissendine Parish Council last spring but now the county council is seeking enforcement action to have it removed because it claims the site doesn’t have the necessary planning permission.

Parish clerk Jen Lacey said: “We are very surprised that this has been taken to the development control committee without any notification to us.

“Rutland County Council has channelled most of the money towards this project and targeted this site. It seems they are giving with one hand and taking with the other.”

The row has broken out because of confusion over planning permission granted for the site in the 1970s.

Permission for play equipment at The Banks was originally granted in 1972 but a separate application for equipment on a smaller section of the land was submitted in 1979.

Mrs Lacey says she was told the original application was still valid but following complaints from residents about anti-social behaviour, planning officers made further investigations.

Last March, the county council ruled that because the land had never been used as a playarea, its planning permission was no longer valid.

A solicitor for Whissendine Parish Council has urged it not to enter into talks with planning officers, who are now seeking permission to have the equipment removed.

Mrs Lacey said: “This area has always been used recreationally by teenagers. The new equipment itself doesn’t carry any noise and when we met with the police they had no concerns about it.

“I can appreciate that people will be annoyed if they are woken up by young people in the area but it’s not something that happens with any frequency.”

The county council’s development control committee will meet next week to decide whether the equipment should be removed. They include a shelter, a nest swing and climbing equipment. It is aimed at eight to 16-year-olds.

Other play equipment near the site, which is provided for younger children, is not part of the planning dispute.

In a report to councillors, officers have recommended that “all required enforcement action be taken, including through the courts, if necessary to ensure the cessation of the use of land identified as a playarea and for the removal of the play equipment currently situated there.”

A county council spokesman said the original planning permission had lapsed and the equipment built was outside the site of the application granted in 1979.

The spokesman added the council had invited the parish council to discuss the issue, but no retrospective planning application had been made and the council would now consider taking enforcemant action.