CHILDREN from all across Gloucester will be able to enjoy a new riding arena in Tredworth after it was approved by councillors.
The arena will be built on a paddock at St James’ City Farm and part of the adjacent park.
City councillor Mary Smith (L, Robinswood) said: “I used to go through this area as a girl as I went to St James’ School and it has always been an area where children have been able to play.
“The city farm is absolutely wonderful. My grandchildren have been there and they love it. I never had that opportunity as a child.
“These plans will give children another activity to take part in and there will still be plenty of open space for people to enjoy.”
Councillor Andy Lewis (C, Quedgeley Fieldcourt) said: “We all know the benefits that children get from being around animals. Children from all over the city will be able to come here and take part or simply watch the horses.”
Despite his allergy to horses, fellow councillor Phil McLellan (LD, Barnwood) also backed the plans when they went before the city council’s planning committee on Tuesday night.
The new arena, which will not be floodlit as had previously been planned, would be surrounded by a 2.5metre sports pitch-style mesh fence and will be situated to the east of the farm and to the west of St James Church.
Imran Atcha, from GymNation, the social enterprise behind the scheme, said it would be a facility for all of the community – and not just Muslims. He added: “This will be Gloucester’s Olympic legacy.”
The organisation has consulted experts from Cheltenham Racecourse and the British Horse Society to help draw up the plans.
He also refuted claims by Tredworth resident Kay Powell that the group was taking over the park.
She had voiced her concerns to councillors, adding: “Tredworth already has a deficit of public open space so making the park smaller is a total disgrace.”
She said that the riding arena would not be truly open to the public as people who use the facility will have to pay and it will only operate in the daytime – unlike the park which is open day and night.
Tony Ward, vice chairman of the Tredworth Estate Tenants and Residents Association, said: “I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from residents. This arena is something that is badly needed in Tredworth.”