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Riding centre plans at city farm split opinion

By The Citizen  |  Posted: September 19, 2013

Comments (13)

COUNTRY life coming to the city centre? Or the loss of green space in a built-up area?

That's the debate in Tredworth where ambitious £60,000 plans for a new equestrian centre are being assessed by planners.

"We have been taking youngsters horse riding for about three years and it's always been really popular," said Imran Atcha, of Gymnation, which runs the St James' City Farm on Gloucester City Council land.

"We have a partnership with Hartpury College to keep a pony there for lessons and for youngsters to learn to care for horses, but we want to bring it here."

But the application for an all-weather 40 metre by 20 metre riding arena and menage next to St James' Park on land currently used for grazing and exercising animals hasn't found favour with all.

"There is precious little green space in Barton and Tredworth," said Tredworth resident Kay Powell, who is unhappy that the application appears to cover not just land which the city council leases to Gymnation, but another patch of land the council owns too.

"This development will swamp it and take another public green area away." And objector Joe Kilker told the council: "We have a flurry of four supporting comments, and not a single one of them addresses the fact that a large chunk of St James' Park is going to be withheld from residents, without any of them being invited to have a say in the matter."

The application is currently online and comments from the public are being taken by the council.

Mr Atcha said some of the cost of the £60,000 to £70,000 project is being met by the charity Wooden Spoon. Running costs of up to £25,000 would be met by the cost of lessons.

Pat Scannell, chairman of Tredworth Estate Tenants and Residents Association said it was a "fantastic idea".

"There are people in this locality who are very much interested in riding but don't know where to go," he said.

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  • Kay_Powell  |  November 13 2013, 5:13PM

    I now know that when the city farm was being planned in 1995, they leafleted 800 local homes and businesses and 1200 local schoolchildren. No-one knew about the sell-off of part of St. James' Park till the recent planning application was publicised in the media. What a difference 18 years makes.

    |   -29
  • Kay_Powell  |  November 12 2013, 4:47PM

    I've now seen the planning documents for the city farm, and it never extended into the area proposed for the riding arena.

    |   -19
  • Kay_Powell  |  November 08 2013, 4:16PM

    My my, someone's been busy with the negative votes. I guess that the truth hurts. The planning application for a riding arena on St. James' Park has now been quietly withdrawn. That's one little battle that I've won, but the war goes on; there is still the outstanding matter of the illegal sell-off of public open space by Gloucester City Council to Gymnasian UK Limited on 1st August 2011, which occurred in secret and with no public consultation.

    |   -23
  • Joe_Kilker  |  October 08 2013, 2:05PM

    Relevant minutes from TETRA committee meeting, September 9th: IA stated they have a plan for the riding school they have already applied for planning permission. IA stated that at the start they stated that one of the plans was to have a riding arena. They have been riding with different organisations already they have their support as well. The riding school will open to all ages. IA also stated very few from this area got to Hartpury or other places for riding. They wil have own volunteers from this area and own riding. People from this area can learn about basic riding and then move on to Hartpury if they wish to go into that field. They will need 40X20 for the area. IA stated that in the lease the paddock area was already marked in. They stated from the start that they would like to have that area for the riding school. IA wanted to clarify that it was already part of the plan. IA also stated that it will be a big project that would cost around £55,000 and will be a supported by a charity called wooden spoon. KP stated that it was a good idea and the area was checked and they were happy with it. Existing space is not big there is space for 3-4 ponies. IA also stated that they have been in contact with Cheltenham Racecourse and they came along to have a look and gave advice. KP stated it would be a good idea to get an article in the citizen to show support from the different organisations. KP also stated that even though the young don't use the area but to avoid them complaining you should maybe talk to the young people to make any suggestions and get their views to make them feel included. IA also stated that the volunteers are good very divers and they have also had some Czech volunteers. IA also stated that the area can also be used for other things like sports and if they would like to visit the site they can arrange with Imran. IA also stated that they can leave comments on the website about this plan and if TETRA can leave some comments supporting the plan. PS agreed to this. IA also stated that Adult Education will be making a mural. KP stated that the St James Park Mural is looking tatty and needs changing. Group to make suggestions and what they can do. TW will be liaising with the farm to keep group updated. IA also stated that the friendship cafe will be moving to Chequers Bridge and will be opening soon. PS also stated if their volunteers can help to deliver some of the newsletters. Again, if Imran Atcha has any proof that the public were told this arena would be taking up *any* part of the park, before the plans submitted in July were finally advertised on a telegraph pole notice in September, I should like to see it.

  • Kay_Powell  |  September 27 2013, 4:23PM

    Agreed, Joe. Also, Imran Atcha's latest claims directly contradict his answer to number 5 on the application form - i.e. that no assistance or prior advice has been sought from the local authority about this application. I said in my letter to the planners on 18th September that I simply didn't believe this claim, and now I have been proved right. As I previously alleged, the whole thing has been carefully planned by Gymnasian, city councillors and city council officers since 2010.

    |   -27
  • Joe_Kilker  |  September 27 2013, 4:00PM

    Imran Atcha has finally made a comment on the planning application. He would like us to believe that the plan has been 'public knowledge' from the beginning, being discussed at various meetings, even ones attended by residents, supposedly, but unless he has evidence of this, as in minutes, it looks like a last-ditch effort to create a veneer of accountability after the fact of doing whatever suits.

  • Kay_Powell  |  September 22 2013, 10:45PM

    The applcation number is 13/00719/FUL. The documents available online STILL don't include the specifications for the all-weather surface, despite them being referenced in other documents.

    |   -31
  • Joe_Kilker  |  September 21 2013, 2:14AM

    I can remember a time when the people who wanted to take over the former B&Q premises (and these were the people before 'Go Outdoors', New Star, if I recall correctly) previewed their plans with a display put on at the Picturedrome for one particular day. The City Farm put in their application back in July, and such a display at that time, or shortly afterwards, would have been a basic courtesy to residents. The question begged, like it or not, and it's a serious question, is why they/we didn't get that heads up? Answers here, or on the Tredworth Facebook page. Councillors/Gymnasian UK staff/neighbourhood partnership committee members (the latter being particularly notable by their silence) are also welcome to their opinion. But someone will have to explain why residents are expected to have an informed view now, when the documents made available are either blank sheets or short of significant details. I've already pointed out that I don't think a consultation period should begin until the full facts *are* available. I don't think this is an unreasonable request.

  • Kay_Powell  |  September 20 2013, 3:40PM

    The planning application is for a riding arena, amusingly referred to throughout as a "menage". Someone can't tell the difference between "menage" and "manege", which is a little-used word meaning riding arena. There is absolutely no indication of where the horses are to be stabled. There isn't room at the city farm. It's a disgrace that a private organisation, Gymnasian UK Ltd, was allowed to take a lease on not only the city farm but a large chunk of St. James' Park over two years ago without public consultation.

    |   -23
  • Joe_Kilker  |  September 20 2013, 3:26PM

    Anyone wishing to comment has until September 25th. It will be too late to do so at the next public meeting of TETRA, on November 7th, at the Big Vic. Anyone who doesn't want to comment here, careful not to hurt yourselves with those arrows...