MILFORD parish councillors have agreed a £182,000 deal to take ownership of an area of land at a new development of homes that will feature allotments, play areas and public open space.
The 2.2-hectare plot on fields surrounding the village primary school on Lymington Road will be handed to the parish council once Pennyfarthing Homes has completed its 42-unit estate, The Swifts.
The land is part of a site known as MOS1, which was earmarked for public amenity when a government planning inspector agreed agricultural fields could be declassified as green belt to enable development to take place.
Construction work is well underway, with Pennyfarthing Homes also set to pick up the bill for building the two play areas, allotments, a cycleway and landscaping some of the site.
Speaking at a recent parish council meeting, clerk Graham Wells revealed that New Forest District Council had agreed to take full responsibility for a parking and drop off zone in a northern area of the site.
However, following the parish council would be free to use the remaining area as it sees fit, with a village-wide consultation planned to seek suggestions.
In a report to members Mr Wells said as landowners the parish council would then be required to inspect the play facilities and carry out necessary repairs, as well as oversee the allotments, cut the grass and trim the hedges. He estimated that this could cost the council up to £8,000 a year.
He added: “Currently we charge the cricket and football clubs for using the facilities at Barnes Lane, so if they, or any other organisation wish to use the new facility it would incur a charge – thus producing an additional modest income not expenditure.”
He added that within the next few years it was anticipated that the MOS2 site on the opposite side of the road would also be developed adding a combined total of around 200 new homes to the village, generating up to £11,000 in council tax revenue each year.
Mr Wells also revealed that if the parish council decided not to take ownership of the land it would be handed to NFDC to maintain and develop but he felt this was unnecessary.
“We already have the expertise to maintain land and play areas, the machinery is in place, the money to upkeep this land will be significant and additional funds will be available, extra playing areas could benefit the football and cricket clubs and many other organisations,” he explained.
However, Cllr Patricia Banks urged colleagues against making a “hasty” decision to take ownership, recommending deferral until site surveys had been undertaken.
Cllr Kenneth Cameron said: “Whether we take this land or not it won’t go away. It will still be there.”
Pointing to the parish council’s decision to take ownership of the Pleasure Grounds several years ago, Cllr Bob Bishop said: “We took that on for the village and thank goodness we did. We receive lots of praise for what we have done up there.”
He added that he felt it would be “odd” for the parish council to turn its back on an opportunity like this.
He said: “By agreeing we are giving ourselves the opportunity to exploit this site. They are offering a lot of money and our village is growing so the need for open space will only increase.”
Cllr Josh Maddock revealed that Milford Football Club currently has 125 members and is being forced to train and play matches on pitches in nearby towns and village because the current Barnes Lane football ground was no longer big enough.
“We would certainly be pushing to get something on that site,” he said.
Members voted seven to four to take ownership of the land under the terms agreed with Pennyfarthing Homes.
Plans for a village-wide consultation on how the land should be developed and used are now being considered.
What do you think? Write to the Advertiser and Times via firstname.lastname@example.org.