Eastbourne gets skate ramp after heated debate
Don’t treat criminals.
That was the plea made by 35-year-old Blair Heffernan to members of the Eastbourne Community Board, debating the location of a skate ramp.
On November 7 more than 60 people heard a range of submissions from supporters and opponents of the facility for eight to 12 year-olds.
The opponents were mostly older and argued the proposed site, on tennis courts next to San Antonio School, was the wrong one and would be too noisy for neighbours.
They argued that Bishop Park was more suitable as it was away from houses and there were facilities such as toilets and an ice cream shop.
An emotional Wendy Pharazyn said she already had to put up with a lot of noise from the tennis courts.
She predicted it would get worse if there was a ramp.
‘‘I have thought about selling my house and leaving Eastbourne, which has been such an important part of my life.’’
Heffernan called for tolerance and urged the meeting to remember the issue was about providing a facility for young children.
‘‘Skateboarding is not a crime, it is a passion.
‘‘I have been doing it for 30 years and it does not involve any criminal activity ... we are all adults but it is not about us, it is about youth. It is not a crime, like everyone is making it out to be.’’
David McDougall said the council was treating neighbours like ‘‘sacrificial lambs’’ by putting the ramp near residential properties.
He did not want his retirement years ‘‘ruined’’ by the sound of skateboarding.
‘‘I am not only disappointed, I am outraged.’’
He sang the Flower of Scotland to reinforce his point. Later in the meeting he and his wife, Judith, walked out after being asked not to interrupt.
Parks manager Bruce Hodgins said the proposal was in line with council policy.
‘‘We want to get children away from screens. We want to them get outside and do things that are a little more risky. It is healthy for society.’’ skateboarders like
The reserve that was under utilised was the best option, he said. Parks generate noise and residents had to expect that, when they lived nearby.
Board chair Virginia Horrocks said the issue had caused ‘‘strong divisions’’ in the community and both sides had shown a lack of respect towards those they disagreed with.
It was now time for ‘‘kindness’’ and for people to respect alternative views, she said.
The board had received letters of support from the nearby school, church, Lions club and a local youth trust.
Board member Murray Gibbons said it was a difficult decision but he supported the proposal.
‘‘We are here to try and find a way to support the youth and the elderly. No matter what we do, we will be damned if we do and damned if we don’t.’’
The board agreed to support the proposal.
Hodgins said the new ramp was unlikely to be installed before next winter, as planting was required to help mitigate the noise.
After the meeting, Heffernan said he was delighted by the decision.
‘‘It was very positive. It is an activity, a passion. Like I said, it is not a crime.’’