MORE than a quarter-of-a-million pounds is being pumped into a major New Milton Town Council scheme to enhance Ashley Recreation Ground.
Extending and refurbishing the play park and erecting a new youth building are among the work set to be carried out on the public green off Normans Way, with hopes of an Easter 2021 opening.
It will be fully funded by an allocation of nearly £270,000 in developers’ contributions, approved by New Forest District Council’s cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, Cllr Edward Heron.
A recent virtual meeting of the town council’s amenities committee heard initial designs for the project had been drafted by NFDC landscape architect Jill Colclough.
Committee chair Cllr Geoffrey Blunden said: “This is a significant investment in youth and play facilities and forms part of the town council’s strategic plan to improve and enhance play parks and recreational facilities.
“The proposed scheme will provide much-needed improvements to Ashley Recreation Ground with play areas for all ages together with a small community youth building – an exciting development serving Ashley village and surrounding areas.”
The play area expansion – expected to account for £100,000 of the funding – is also aimed at serving a wider range of children, including those who are less able.
The new, small youth building is set to cost £80,000 and will be the first specifically built for this purpose since the loss of the Phoenix Centre in Culver Road.
As reported in the A&T, the centre had been New Milton’s main hub for youth activities for 30 years before Hampshire County Council sold it to the Education Funding Agency in 2017.
The town council’s youth services manager, Silma Ramsaywack, is involved in discussions over the new building’s internal layout. Views will be sought from potential users as part of a consultation on the plans.
Another part of the recreation ground development will see a new storage building erected in place of an existing shipping container at a projected cost of £50,000. Intended to create a more agricultural appearance, this is set to be a prefabricated, pitch-roofed, timber-clad building.
External enhancements to the rugby club pavilion and a car park extension to increase capacity will account for £30,000.
Access and circulation around the building will be reviewed in a bid to provide a more attractive environment while limiting opportunities for anti-social behaviour.
As reported in the A&T, the club has suffered a spate of vandalism, including tiles being ripped from the pavilion roof. Goalposts owned by the club have also been damaged both on the recreation ground and on the pitch outside the neighbouring Ashley Junior School.
The school has since erected high anti-climb fencing around its grounds and the town council is set to install CCTV to cover the pavilion and sports ground.
Cllr Blunden told the recent amenities meeting the recreation ground enhancement scheme would be presented to NFDC at the end of October.
He added: “We will shortly be publishing draft plans and arranging meetings with the public and stakeholder groups seeking views on the proposals.”
Town clerk Graham Flexman told the A&T the council hoped the play park development could be carried out by the end of the year, with an opening at Easter.
An NFDC report on the funding said: “The identified proposals bring direct environmental benefits through enhancing, improving and increasing capacity by enabling greater use of existing open space for informal recreation, new habitat creation and enhanced management techniques.”
The allocation for the project means developers’ contributions will not be available for three other schemes in New Milton: a wooded area in Ashington Park, a play area in Danesbury Meadows and upgrading Fawcett’s Field.