Plans for a £35,000 outdoor gym in Fleetwood have been approved – despite a last ditch bid by residents to scupper the scheme.
People living on Roundway say they have not been consulted by Wyre Council over its plans for the gym on a field near their homes and fear it could prove a magnet for vandals and unruly youths
Council bosses say the facility will have eight pieces of exercise equipment to help keep older people fit and healthy. The scheme, which does not require planning permission, has been approved by cabinet member for sport and leisure Coun Lynne Bowen.
The approval came despite more than 60 residents putting their name to a petition opposing the scheme,
Cash was given to the council as part of an agreement with Barratt Homes as part of a planning permission granted in 2005 for 34 properties at the former Rossall Hospital – but must be repaid to the developer if it has not been spent by April 23 this year.
Opponents of the scheme claim that despite having had nine years to decide how to use the money the council only informed them of its plan a month ago when leaflets were delivered to 40 households.
Roundway resident Marjorie Rogers-Thomas, 68, who said she had not received a leaflet, said: “This came as quite a shock. We fear yobs from elsewhere will come in and take over the area and that they will be making a noise, drinking and causing damage because they have nothing else to do.
“I do not want the gym on this land and neither does anyone else around here – it should be left as it is and as it has been since our houses were built in 1965.”
Carl Fern, 42, organised the petition, and lives on Roundway with his wife and two children. He said: “If the council had come round and spoken to us this might have been a different kettle of fish but they are ramming this down our throats whether we like it or not.
“Only the other day I was at the Moor Park leisure complex in Bispham which has a similar outdoor gym – there is litter everywhere, some of the equipment is broken and there were signs of drug use.
“If that is what happens at a complex with CCTV I worry what could happen here where the equipment will be unsupervised.”
Mr Fern also raised concerns about a lack of parking and suggested the cash could be better spent solving drainage problems because large sections of the field were under water for much of winter.
He claimed an email he had received from a council officer on March 11 stating the authority’s intention to progress the scheme as evidence that this week’s decision was a fait accompli.
The gym has been backed by Rossall ward councillor Terry Rogers, but ward colleague Coun Rita Hewitt said the council had not made good its promise to listen to residents’ views.
“I don’t have a personal view on the scheme but I represent people in my ward,” she said. “So far nobody has come to me to say they support this idea.”
A Wyre Council spokeswoman said that the cash had originally been earmarked for a children’s play area but that its use had been reconsidered to ‘better reflect the age ranges of the population’ following a consultation in 2010.
She said: “We have since consulted with ward councillors over the new plans and they were invited to visit residents directly affected by the scheme with our officers to inform them of the plans.
“We have also consulted with the local area police who have not raised any issues.”
She added that the council was corresponding with Mr Fern about his petition and would investigate the concerns over drainage and consider any work required.
She said Friday’s meeting would “clarify some of these matters”.
Coun Bowen insisted that all ward councillors had backed the scheme and that she was ‘dumbfounded’ by Coun Hewitt’s comments.
“I believe that this is a positive scheme that will bring great benefits to older people in the local community,” she said.