'Strong opposition' to tennis courts car park switch
PUBLISHED: 06:56 17 June 2013
CHURCH leaders with the power to veto the proposed conversion of Grove Park tennis courts into a car park say that have not agreed to the move - and key figures remain 'strongly opposed' to the idea.
The Mercury has reported in recent weeks how North Somerset Council wants to rip up the Weston sports courts to extend the neighbouring car park.
The authority already owns the land, and also has the power to approve the change from a planning perspective.
The sticking point comes in the form of a 124-year-old covenant, agreed when the authority bought the land from nearby St John’s Church in 1889.
Nick Denison, secretary of the Diocese of Bath and Wells board of finance, said: “The restrictive covenant envisaged that the land would be used for recreational purposes in perpetuity.
“It would be hard to argue that car parking is recreational use.”
Mr Denison wrote to the Mercury this week to provide a definitive explanation of the current situation, after it had appeared the council had already secured the requisite consent for the land’s change of use.
He said the diocese has not yet agreed any terms with the council, and revealed members of St John’s Parochial Church Council (PCC) remain steadfastly opposed to the whole idea.
He said: “We are aware that there is considerable local opposition to the proposal that the use of the land be changed for car parking.
“We understand that Weston College and the YMCA are interested in improving the site such that its use as a recreation area would be enhanced.
“We also know that the PCC would wish to see the land continue to be used for recreational purposes and would strongly oppose any change of use.”
He went on to say that the decision lies with diocesan leaders, but even if they agree to relax the covenant, the PCC could challenge the ruling.
Mr Denison said: “If the board of finance were minded to consent to a release or variation of the restrictive covenant, then we would be obliged to serve notice on the PCC.
“The PCC would almost certainly register its opposition and, if the board of finance were to persist, then the PCC would have a right of appeal to the church commissioners.
“The correspondence which I have received in recent weeks leads me to conclude that a change of use of the land would have an adverse impact on local relationships, but perhaps this ought to be tested by an application from North Somerset Council for planning consent.”