CONTROVERSIAL plans for a neighbourhood park that have divided residents have finally been agreed.
The park is to be built on the town’s plush Bishop Cuthbert estate after developers were given the go-ahead by Hartlepool Borough Council’s planning committee.
Plans have been in place for two years but the issue has divided the community after residents at the Hartfields Retirement Village voiced their concerns.
The park, which will feature two play areas, a multi-use games area and a bandstand, will be built next to the retirement complex.
Residents wanted it moving further away from their homes due to concerns about traffic and noise fears, potential anti-social behaviour and vandalism.
John Robson, who spoke on behalf of residents at Hartfields Retirement Village, said: “Some of the people at Hartfields are up to 95 years of age and some are frail and don’t want to be disturbed at all hours.
“The residents want the park but let them have it away from Hartfields. We are not saying we don’t want it, just away from Hartfields.”
Despite the concerns the council’s planning committee unanimously backed the plans.
Planners had received a 53-name petition against the plans but a survey showed out of 176 residents that took part, 170 were in favour with people saying it was long overdue.
Labour councillor Chris Simmons said while he sympathised with the residents of Hartfields, he added: “This is a much-needed development.”
Conservative group leader Ray Wells said he too had great sympathy with residents and was conscious of the amount of parking available but said there wasn’t an onus on the developer to build the park anywhere else and therefore the estate would miss out.
He said while it was “quite telling” the majority of people that wanted it didn’t live near the site, he said he would be supporting it.
Labour councillor Paul Beck spoke as a ward councillor and said: “I believe the time has come for us to support some visible facilities for people to enjoy during the summer months on the Bishop Cuthbert estate.”
There is already a 62-space car park in place which is used by patients visiting a doctor’s surgery at Hartfields and that will be used by people using the park.
The site will be managed by Hartlepool Borough Council and officers say the park has been designed so there is natural surveillance to reduce anti-social behaviour.
While the park will be open at night the play areas will be locked with fencing around the play equipment.
An application was first submitted back in March 2010 but it was deferred to allow further discussions between Hartfields and Leebell Developments.
A report to the meeting said: “The design and layout of the facilities has been altered since the previous application to take into account the concerns of Hartfield’s residents.
“For example, the multi-use games area has been moved further west from Hartfield’s in the interests of mitigating noise concerns of residents.”