Car parking on Appleby playing field not an option

Date: Saturday 1st October 2005

Sir, I read with interest your report (Herald, 24th September) on the new Appleby Chamber of Trade and Community Association. May I point out a few facts regarding the group’s tentative suggestion of an extension of Broad Close car park on to King George’s Playing Field.

Some 49 years ago, on Thursday, 16th August, 1956, the then Princess Royal visited Appleby to officially open King George’s Playing Field. Her Royal Highness was received by the Lord Lieutenant of Westmorland, Major J. W. Cropper, who presented the mayor, Councillor J. Hargreaves, who in turn presented the mayoress, town clerk and other council dignitaries to the Princess Royal.

During the opening ceremony the mayor said they were indeed honoured by the presence of Her Royal Highness and added that it was fitting that she had graciously consented to open the playing field which was dedicated to the memory of her late father, King George V.

Muriel, Viscountess Lowther, the then chairman of the Cumberland and Westmorland Playing Fields Association, read a letter from Lord Lucas, chairman of the King George Playing Fields Foundation, in which he said the playing field at Appleby was part of a national memorial to King George V and this was indicated by the heraldic plaques presented by the foundation and fixed on to the memorial gates.

The Earl of Lonsdale then invited Her Royal Highness to present a cheque for £1,200 to the mayor covering the contribution from the foundation towards the cost of developing the field. He said the cheque was the contribution from the memorial fund to the late king which had been raised by public subscription after the death of a much-loved and revered monarch.

He emphasised that the playing field was developed due to the initiative and enthusiasm of the people of Appleby, the greater part of the cost being borne by the borough and townspeople.

In her response the Princess Royal said it had given her great pleasure to come to Appleby to open the playing fields which bore her father’s name and continued: “I hope the field will provide a safe and delightful place for the enjoyment of many generations of children. I trust those who use it will take zealous pride in keeping it tidy and free from litter. I entrust this playing field to the people of Appleby.”

The Princess Royal was then invited by the mayor to join a procession to the playing field where she was presented with the key to officially open the memorial gates.

As a point of information to residents of Appleby and the surrounding area who have moved here in recent years, the playing field is dedicated as a memorial to King George V and is held in perpetuity as a playing field for the people of Appleby and, as such, can be used for no other purpose. It is a registered charity and cannot be used for such purposes as to alleviate town centre parking problems.

Recently I received from the National Playing Fields Association a plan of the field when it was first dedicated as a playing field. How much open space have we lost since then?

When the field was first dedicated in 1956 there was only a small car park (now more than twice the size), no play area, no football and squash club, no cub hut, not trees, no earth bund don’t you think we have already lost enough open space? I got the impression from the fields manager of the National Playing Fields Association after his last visit to Appleby that he agreed with me that enough is enough.

Had we as residents not fought hard over the last 12 years, the area of land being suggested for car parking would not have been available as it could have been either a toilet block or destroyed by a massive flood defence wall.

The NPFA had the power to stop these proposed developments. In fact, the National Rivers Authority, as it then was, was made to dig up the concrete foundations it had put in place without the National Playing Fields Association’s knowledge or permission and return it to its original grassed area.

The Appleby Chamber of Trade and Community Association should go to Eden District Council to encourage it to provide extra car parking. Over many years development has taken place on various sites adjacent to the town centre which would have made excellent parking areas had the council had the foresight to consider them.

Eden Council is a trustee of the field but it is necessary for the NPFA’s approval to be given for any change of use. As the possible car park would be to alleviate town centre parking problems I cannot see the council, the association or the Charity Commissioners agreeing to such a car park being constructed.

The residents of Appleby worked hard for the playing field in the 1950s, and other residents have worked hard in the ensuing years to retain our “jewel”, which is something we should all be proud of. Please support retaining our playing field our one and only open space.

As a final note, having lived in the town for 46 years and, more importantly, worked in the town for some 40 years, may I take this opportunity to resolve the confusion I am experiencing.

Ever since the formation of the Appleby Chamber of Trade and Community Association, comments attributed to Judith Sowerby have been associated with myself more so these last few days after the article referred to previously.

Because of our differing views it is imperative that the public are made aware of which Judith Sowerby expresses which comments, and I would ask in future that comments made by Judith Sowerby, of Eden Sewing, are so stated.

After all, my views are simple car parking on King George’s Playing Field is not an option. Yours etc,

JUDITH SOWERBY

Westmorland House, Appleby.