Community farm charity urges council to grant it a lease to use former school playing fields

A farm and outdoor activity centre in Shirebrook is campaigning to be allowed to use a former school playing field to ensure its future.

By Kevin Rogers
Tuesday, 14th July 2015, 4:31 pm
David Taylor, Director at the Willow Tree Family Farm in Shirebrook with one of the baby meerkats which are being hand reared.
David Taylor, Director at the Willow Tree Family Farm in Shirebrook with one of the baby meerkats which are being hand reared.

Willow Tree Family Farm has launched a petition asking the council to grant it a lease to develop for four acres of fields next to the site so it can expand its grazing, build a car park and more leisure facilities, including a new children’s play area.

Derbyshire County Council is being asked to give the lease of land on the former Langwith Road Playing Field, Shirebrook, to Willow Tree Family Farm for community development.

Chair and Trustee David Anthony said expanding the site would safeguard the future for the farm, create five more jobs and give the animals there a better standard of living.

He said: “Willow Tree Family Farm is the only thing in Shirebrook for safe family activities.

“We have visitors from all over Nottinghamshire, with more than 60 schools visiting us more than 80 volunteers and nine staff members.

“If we are able to secure the land for community use, because we are a charity we will be able to create five more jobs.

“Shirebrook Town Council who currently own the lease has agreed in a council meeting to surrender that and give it back to Derby County Council with immediate effect.

“They are supporting Willow Tree Family Farm to develop our safe play area.

“Currently it is the only safe place where children feel safe to play in our community.

“We have been sending letters to Derbyshire County Council urging them not to change the use of the land so they can sell it and make a profit.

“We want them to give us a long lease or a transfer of land to the community under the new Community Space Orders.”

The charity is urging members of the public to sign a petition at change.org.

The petition can be accessed via the Willow Tree Family Farm Facebook page.

David Anthony outlined plans for the field if the charity is granted a lease.

He said Willow Tree Farm needed the extra land to provide a car park to the facilities for cars, bikes, minibuses and coaches.

He said; “We want to increase the facilities of animal care to help use achieve the change to a licensed Zoo.

“This will offer more educational studies and work placements for training provides and local children.

“It will allow the farm to have more animals and better facilities ensuring all our animals are within the best environment possible.”

“There are plans to provide a new inclusive top of the line play area suitable for all ages allowing wheelchair users; parents with pushchairs, as well as children up to the age of 16, to play on a interactive educational play structure designed to promote all aspects of developmental needs. this is something the town has never had and is not available locally.”

He said the changes would allow Willow Tree Family Farm the opportunity to provide seasonal events to support and promote community cohesion in Shirebrook and help make Shirebrook a tourism designation

It would also allow the construction of a small camping site for schools, visitors, general public to use increasing tourism to the town.

He said the extra space would also allow build a new community building with a new community café, function rooms, sporting activities, and more for the community use. this will hopefully host a range of activities for children to attend out of school reducing anti-social behaviour and crime levels.

Pleasley dad Paul Hessey whose family’s four donkeys were given a last minute reprieve by the charity, spoke out in support of the petition.

Earlier this year Chad told the heartbreaking story of how the Hessey family of Pleasley set out an SOS after the four donkeys - pets of their three autistic children - faced being put down if they could not be found a new home.

Just a week before the family’s notice to quit their current home expired Willow Street Farm stepped in to offer them a permanent home.

Paul said: ”The farm stepped in to offer our donkeys a permanent home, but they only have a limited amount of space for them to graze.

“Here are five donkeys there now and Llamas.

“The land is doing nothing so why can’t they just let them have it.”

A Derbyshire County Council spokesman said: “We’ve supported Willow Tree Farm over a number of years and continue to lease part of the former Shirebrook Community School site to them.

“The adjacent sports fields, which were also part of the former school site, have been leased to Shirebrook Town Council for use by the town’s residents for many years.

“We haven’t received formal notification from the town council that it wishes to end its lease. If we receive this we’ll consider appropriate future uses for the site.

“Any alternative use will need to take into account planning regulations because the land is protected in the Bolsover District Local Plan as public open space.”