‘Let public use Somerdale playing fields for free’

A PETITION is calling for the public to be allowed to use the playing fields at Somerdale in Keynsham for free.

It was prompted by Somerdale Pavilion Trust’s “polite reminder” to the local community that “our fields are private property.”

In a social media post, the trust added: “We politely ask you to keep this in mind and advise children to play elsewhere.

“Goal nets have been padlocked together to help try and deter any interference.

“If there are children looking for things to do over the holidays, our five-a-side courts/tennis courts are bookable at reception.”

The Facebook post has since been deleted. But in response, a petition was set up by Dave Biddleston, a Bath & North East Somerset Labour councillor for Keynsham.

The petition on the change.org website asks the trust “to seriously consider our request to grant children access to your fields for free play.”

It adds: “We are deeply concerned at your recent social media post underlining the necessity to “Keep of your land”, and are writing to express our horror at your decision to prevent our children from using the fields when they are not being used by paying groups and teams.

“We believe that granting access to your facilities for young individuals will not only bring countless benefits to the children themselves but also to your business in the longer term.”

The petition, which has been signed by more than 120 supporters, has attracted several comments.

One supporter said: “I have children, very few free places they can go. Parents are struggling with bills, children are struggling after Covid. Their mental health is my priority.”

The chair of the Somerdale Pavilion Trust, Peter Rilett, told the Voice: “Since taking over the running of the Somerdale Pavilion in 2019, the Somerdale Pavilion Trust has always been keen to listen to the views of its members and the local community.

“Our sports pitches are used by more than 5,000 people annually and they are home to 50 local football teams, which include junior boys and girls sections, along with senior women’s teams.

“Historically, all the sports pitches at the Somerdale Pavilion have been available for the sole use of the local teams that pay to play there, as well as for hosting competitions and private hire events.

“The Somerdale Pavilion Trust operates on a not-for-profit basis, and in order to keep the Pavilion’s facilities open to its members and the people of Keynsham, it is reliant on generating income to meet the significant costs of preparing and maintaining its sports pitches.

“However, we are willing to explore the possibility of making an area of the Somerdale site available to the public, subject to consultation with local residents and mitigating factors, such as health and safety concerns.

“We are looking forward to engaging with the local community and will be providing updates on any reasonable changes that can be made in the near future.”

Councillor Biddleston told the Voice: “I’m certainly looking forward to discussing their ideas about the creation of a new play area for the community.”