Row over ban on kids using Keynsham playing fields

As the school summer holiday gets under way, a row has blown up after the charity that owns the playing fields at Somerdale in Keynsham reminded the community that they are private property and children should play elsewhere.

The “polite reminder” posted on social media says that the goal nets have been padlocked together to “help try and deter any interference” and if children are looking for things to do over the holidays, the five-a-side courts and tennis courts are bookable at reception.

In response a petition addressed to St Monica Trust and Somerdale Pavilion has been started. The trust redeveloped the vacant Cadbury’s (previously Fry’s) factory site at Somerdale and Taylor Wimpey has built hundreds of homes in the grounds.

In 2019 the Somerdale Pavilion Trust, created by the St Monica Trust, took over the operation of the Somerdale Pavilion from the previous lease-holder Aquaterra, “with the specific objective of running and maintaining the facility for the people of Keynsham”.

The petition has been started by Dave Biddleston, a Labour councillor who represents Keynsham South on both the town council and Bath & North East Somerset Council.

He told The Week In: “I wonder if Somerdale Pavilion ought to rethink their position. I think that not only is it short-sighted in encouraging families to spend money in their facilities, it also seems particularly mean-spirited.

“Imagine if the town council took that attitude to Manor playing fields when they are not being used by teams renting the pitches. Me, my own children and generations of local children have played on Fry fields, kicked balls and played cricket. Fry’s chocolate factory was a business too but with a far more enlightened attitude to the people that lived and worked around here.

“Those teenagers will grow to be residents who will always remember they were banned from open fields.”

Responses on Facebook to the ban have been mixed. They include: “I know plenty of children on the Somerdale estate don’t have gardens big enough to play football in or a garden at all and would love to go kick around a football down on the fields with friends, etc. – beats them staying in with a phone or iPad in their face.”

Another person observed: “It’s the strong community spirit that helps make Keynsham the great place it is. This attitude, by a organisation that proposes to be community-minded, does them no favours. The development of the old Cadbury site was an opportunity for Keynsham wasted. One of a number of planning errors that has done nothing to enhance the lives of present and future residents of the town.”

But another commented: “I think some people are forgetting that Somerdale Pavilion is a business that needs to make money to pay their staff and suppliers. Where do you draw the line if you are saying some people should be able to use the land for free?”

The Week In has approached St Monica Trust for a comment.