FEATURE: A big year for project aiming to transform green space in Battle

There are big changes afoot at Battle Recreation Ground, as an ambitious project to transform the green space gathers pace.

Monday, 28th January 2019, 11:15 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 7:23 pm
Battle Recreation Ground: Rufus Coleman with his bike and L-R Gary Walsh (Rep for Battle Baptist Football Club and Fit for Battle), Cllr Glenna Favell, Sue Burton (Project Manager Battle Health Pathway) and runner Deborah Winchester. SUS-190801-124928001

2019 is set to be a big year for those behind the scheme which will ultimately see the rec, in North Trade Road, transformed into an accessible space offering improved sport and leisure facilities to residents of all ages.

Battle Town Council set up a working group in 2017 to progress the plans to build the Battle Health Pathway and upgrade the Pavilion. The group, called Fit For Battle, includes representatives from the council, Battle Baptist Football Club and the Battle Health Pathway project team.

It was five years ago this month that the Battle Health Pathway project group was established as a sub-group of the Battle Local Action Planning Group.

Battle Recreation Ground: Walking Football SUS-190801-124709001

The group’s vision is for an all-weather pathway circling around the rec, providing a smooth, safe surface for children learning to cycle, along with parents with pushchairs, wheelchair users and those with mobility issues, who may struggle to negotiate particularly muddy parts of the rec.

After years of hard work and tireless fundraising, last year the Battle Health Pathway project group joined forces with Battle Town Council, which owns the rec, and has its own vision of transforming the space into a park, complete with a new pavilion, improved football pitch, play equipment and table tennis table.

As Battle Health Pathway (BHP) project group member and Battle Town councillor Glenna Favell says: “It is important – the residents deserve more than just grass.”

Sue Burton, BHP project manager, explains: “The pathway will link the various facilities in the recreation ground and create links within the town for getting about. It would be a smooth surface suitable for everybody.

Battle Recreation Ground: showing the area that's been levelled out. SUS-190801-124619001

“It would be a unique traffic-free route in Battle.”

She added: “It gives older people access to a green space.

“If people are no longer able to drive, that’s very limiting in this area.”

Cllr Favell added: “And also it would be lovely for little people to learn to ride bikes and roller blade.”

Battle Recreation Ground: SUS-190801-124811001

The BHP plans include an outdoor gym, a picnic area within a nature garden, plus a smooth area painted with road markings to help children learn to cycle safely and responsibly.

Sue said: “It’s unique because at the moment children learning to ride their bikes have to go to Bexhill or Hastings. Also part of the project is the cycle skills area called a ‘pump track’ for young people to build up their cycle skills with lumps and bumps.”

The pathway will cost in the region of £220,000 to build, with grants from the 1066 Cycle Club, Battle Lions, Battle Health Walks and the Rother Environmental Group helping towards this total.

Sue added: “We have ongoing funding applications for large amounts, including the lottery, which we are trying to progress.

Battle Recreation Ground: Pavilion SUS-190801-125032001

“The community has been set the target to raise £22,000 towards the project and we already have £17,000 of that.

“We would like to thank businesses and organisations who have already done something to support. But there is room for more.”

Battle Town Council will contribute £30,000 to the BHP over the next three years, plunging the same amount into its own grand project – replacing the dilapidated pavilion on the rec.

The pavilion dates from the 1960s and has inadequate insulation and heating, plus access for wheelchair users is extremely limited.

In short, Cllr Favell says, the facilities are “in dire need” of modernisation.

She said: “The town council wanted to convert part of the current pavilion into a café.

“Then when we actually looked to do it, we realised the pavilion is not in a brilliant condition to be able to do that.

“There’s a lot wrong with it, which would mean the conversion is very difficult.”

Instead the council has been granted planning permission to demolish the pavilion and replace it with a larger building.

Cllr Favell said: “The pavilion plans are very exciting. The new pavilion actually includes a club room at the back, two team changing rooms with individual shower cubicles and two gender neutral toilet facilities.

“Also two small changing areas because there could be male or female officials.

“There will be gender neutral toilets for visitors and for users of the café.”

The larger footprint of the new building will allow for storage underneath the pavilion – something Battle Baptists needs to enable it to progress in the league.

Battle Town Council, with the support of the club, intends to apply to the Football Foundation for financial help. It is hoped the pavilion will be completed by the end of 2020.

Cllr Favell said: “The café at the front will be very useful with the health pathway.

“It will be a community hub, hopefully on the most amazingly beautiful recreation ground.”

By the beginning of this summer, BTC says facilities at the rec will include senior and junior football pitches, a multi-use games area, tennis courts, outdoor table tennis, a two-lane playing area of petanque and three separate play areas – a woodland adventure play area, a play castle and a swings and roundabout area.

Work to achieve a perfect parkland is already well underway, with the play castle proving a huge hit over the summer months.

Cllr Favell said: “Since we have had the castle play area put in, the summer holidays were wonderful. There were children all over it. To see them all playing, it just brings love to your heart.”

The junior football pitch has just been levelled, with the help of a grant from Rother District Council, plus plans for outdoor table tennis received a welcome financial boost at the end of 2018, thanks to the Tesco Bags of Help scheme.

Meanwhile a new youth shelter is on the way, with funding secured courtesy of Rother District Council and the Sussex Police Property Act Fund.  Students at Claverham Community College have been set the task of raising the outstanding £300-£400 to allow the shelter to be built.

A picnic area and sensory garden has already been given the green light by the council.

Cllr Favell added: “There’s a lot to do, but we have made a good start.”

Battle council has agreed to take over the maintenance of the Battle Health Pathway once it has been completed.

Cllr Favell added: “The recreation ground is owned and managed by the council, but it’s on behalf of the people of Battle. It’s the residents who really own it.”

Upcoming fundraising events include a family film showing at Battle Memorial Hall on March 23. Visit  www.battlehealthpathway.co.uk  to sign up for updates and about forthcoming events.