Rallying for our MUGA
Published on: 02 Feb 2017
Feelings have been running high on the Manor Farm Estate in Horfield over the intended closure of the MUGA (Multi Use Games Area).
On Thursday, 9th February residents awoke to the news that the MUGA was to be closed on Monday, 20th February and would be fenced off and work would commence to remove the structure and surface prior to its turfing. Letters to this effect were hand delivered to local residents and notices were placed on the MUGA and community noticeboards.
A sense of shock enveloped the area as no-one had any idea that this was coming without any consultation whatsoever. It was all due to a court action which a single local resident had brought against Bristol City Council over noise levels at the MUGA. The court ruled against the Council leaving them with little option. At the time of writing the court’s judgement is not available.
This was all very frustrating as some 18 months ago the two Horfield Councillors Claire Hiscott and Olly Mead had submitted a plan to the Council for a re-design of the MUGA. Quite what happened to this plan is unclear but it does seem that it slowed up when it reached the Council’s Parks Department. What is particularly galling is that the re-design would have cost £50,000 yet defending the lost court action cost the Council £60,000.
Councillor Claire Hiscott explains, “"Bristol City Council lost the case and now has a legal obligation to reduce noise, there has been no consultation with the local community, nor with the councillors. Plans were put forward to redesign the space a year ago, and were dropped by Bristol City Council. It was a source of frustration for us, as we could see a court case looming. It didn't need to go this far, and the money spent on the court case could have been used to redesign the area for the young people. For the residents of Manor Farm, taking away the MUGA means taking away an important part of their only local park and green space. After the demolition takes place, the area will be turfed over. Its future could now be uncertain, with some in the community wondering out loud if the space will be developed for housing at a later date. I'm disappointed that children and families are losing out, that's the saddest thing.”
On the Saturday the local residents had been galvanized into action and a candlelit demonstration was planned for the Sunday evening by Tim Jo Sunderland. The event was a roaring success with a good crowd attending with their “save our pitch” placards.
By the Monday the local media had picked up the story and residents were interviewed, with Anna George, Derek Cooper and Natalia Cristina Grijalva being interviewed on Radio Bristol. By the following day an on-line petition was set up on Change.org and to date has been signed by 675 people. Other residents deserve a mention too; Caitriona De Burca encouraging children spend their half term writing letters or poems and draw pictures of what their MUGA means to them to be forwarded to the Mayor.
On the Friday it appeared that the Council’s stance was softening as they issued the following statement: The removal of this MUGA was due to take place on Monday 20th February 2017. This action was planned to enable the Council to comply with a court order requiring it to abate the noise nuisance from the MUGA by 17th March 2017. If BCC does not take action then it will incur the costs of enforcement action. Removal is considered to be the most cost effective solution to meeting the court order with the time and funding available. However the Council has now paused this work while discussions are held locally to see if there are any alternative courses of action that can be carried out in the time available and that are affordable. These might include re-locating the MUGA if a suitable local site can be found and confirmed. In the interim the Council has fenced off the facility to ensure it does not continue to generate a noise nuisance.
Councillor Asher Craig, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “We have listened to what the public have said and have heard their concerns. As a result, I have asked my colleagues in the parks team to ensure that the Maskelyne Avenue multi-use games area (MUGA) is not removed immediately. Following the noise nuisance Abatement Order from the Magistrates Court, the MUGA will cease to be available for public use from next week onwards. We will then consult with local residents about what options are available. The court order states that the Council must abate noise nuisance from the Maskelyne Avenue MUGA mainly concerning the noise made by balls hitting the fences and the tarmac. One of the options we will need to consider is removing the MUGA but, we will include local people in any discussions about its future.”
Councillor Olly Mead added, “I love the way the local community has come together to protect the MUGA, and with both councillors working together with the Cabinet member in charge of parks, I am hopeful that we can solve the noise problems and keep the MUGA”.
The Horfield and Lockleaze Voice understand that is 95% certain that the structures in the MUGA will shortly be moved to a safe location while a final decision is reached.