Planning for a new Bull Croft
Some of you may have noticed a surveyor in the Bull Croft on Monday 10th July. He was carrying out a survey to produce an accurate map of the park, to show the location of all of the facilities within the park as well as work out contours. The map will be used to by the Bull Croft Working Group in their work to come up with options for the future of the Bull Croft.
The Bull Croft is the largest of the town's three parks and is home to a number of playgrounds and sporting facilities, as well the Recreation Rooms (“Rec Rooms”) and the Pavilion.
The Rec Rooms date from World War II when they were erected as “temporary” buildings to provide rest and recreation facilities for wartime servicemen and service women. Currently they are used by Rainbow Pre-school, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, the food bank and the bell ringing society. At some 75 years old, they are approaching the end of their useful life and the council has started to look at how they can be replaced.
The Pavilion at the north end of the park is in fact two separate, wooden buildings that have been connected together. Built about 60 years ago, over the years they have supported many sporting events, but they are out-of-date and are no longer fit for purpose; the sports that are played have changed, and they do not meet modern standards for male and female dressing rooms.
It is time to look at options for the park as a whole. In particular, the Council would like to look at improving the children's facilities for both young and older groups.
For many councils, this might be a relatively straightforward process. Unfortunately, our rich history works against us here:
- The Bull Croft is not owned by the Town Council, but by an independent charitable trust administered by the Council. The distinction may be subtle, but it means that the Council has to take into account restrictions in the Deed of Trust which established the park in 1913;
- The park is a Scheduled Ancient Monument as it contains both the remains of the Holy Trinity Priory and part of the Saxon defences. We cannot do anything that damages those remains; and
- The park is a registered Town Green, which imposes restrictions on what we can build and where.
In short, these constraints mean that we have to tread very carefully!
The unique status of the Bull Croft doesn't mean that it must be frozen in time. The Town Council recognises that it needs significant, but sensitive, reorganisation and the Council has established the Bull Croft Working Group to look at how we can develop options to serve the changing needs of the town. This is of course especially timely given the on-going work on the neighbourhood plan.
The working group will work through the constraints and consult with:
- Historic England and groups such as the Wallingford Historical & Archaeological Society (to ensure that any changes do not impact on the archaeology);
- Oxfordshire County Council (who must consent to any changes to the Town Green registration);
- South Oxfordshire District Council (to seek advice on what would be acceptable in terms of planning policy); and
- The heirs of the family that granted the Bull Croft to the Bull Croft Trust, to seek their agreement to any changes to the deed of trust that may be required.
Once this is done, the working group will come up with options for the reorganisation of the Bull Croft and the improvement of its facilities. These will then be put before residents in a public consultation. If you'd like to know more, please email the wording group chair, Cllr Lee Upcraft.