Outraged residents sign petition against plans for wooden playground near famous Ickwell May Pole

'My hope is simply that, after seeing the public’s outcry, the council revisit the matter and find a more appropriate location'

By Joanna Gravett
Thursday, 10th June 2021, 12:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th June 2021, 6:06 pm

Outraged residents are signing a petition to persuade Northill Parish Council not to erect a wooden playground in close proximity to the famous Ickwell May Pole.

The plans have been described as "a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved friend", with claims that the playground would spoil the unique landmark.

However, in defence, Northill Parish Council told the Chronicle that the plans are "a direct result" of the "shortfall in the provision" of children's play equipment on Ickwell Green, and that the design would be "sympathetic" to the area.

The plans for the playground. Credit: Playdale.

But petition organiser, Michael Roadnight, claimed: "I personally find it incredible and very alarming that of all of this area's councillors, only three felt that this was totally the wrong location for such an amenity, the value of which is not contested.

"The first time many residents, including those most directly affected by the decision, learnt of the controversial plan, was when contractors marked out the area.

"On seeing this, a number of residents voiced their anger, annoyance and concern that yet another of the areas most loved landmarks was being threatened, and so a petition was started and circulated reminding people that Ickwell is one of only three places in the entire country where there is a permanent May Pole, and citing the famous words of Prince Charles that anything installed anywhere near the unique landmark would be: 'A monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much loved friend'."

He added: "My hope is simply that, after seeing the public’s outcry, the council revisit the matter and find a more appropriate location that is not anywhere in the eyeline of the historic May Pole."

Ickwell May Pole. Photo: Michael Roadnight.

The names of the proposed equipment at the woodland play area are as follows: Timber Team Swing (Green Seat); Little Monkeys - Chimpanzee; Non-Standard Tottlebank (Dark Green); Timber Log Walk; Timber Inclined Twine; Timber Swinging Steps; Timber Striding Stilt; Timber Zig Zag Stepper and Timber Clatter Bridge.

Michael added: "Northill Parish Council have a truly thankless task; they get all of the flak, and never any credit for anything and all of its members generously give their time - I simply feel, based on what many long term residents tell me, that they have misjudged this issue and the strength of people’s emotional attachment to this wonderful and unique monument. Imagine putting a playground anywhere near Stonehenge? On a smaller scale, to some of us, this is comparable.

"This is about the preservation of local and national heritage."

This year, the village's famous May Day was cancelled due to the pandemic, with the next celebration planned for May 2, 2022.

Ickwell May Day Festival. Photo: JPIMedia Archives.

A traditional feature of the festival is the half-mile procession from the Church at Northill to Ickwell Green, while there is also morris and may pole dancing.

Up to the 19th century the maypole was erected each year and the usual practice was to cut down a tree, until a permanent may pole was erected in 1872 by the Squire John Harvey to celebrate the birth of his son.

Petitions are available from 01767 627 581 or [email protected] The deadline is Monday, June 14.

In defence of the playground plans, a Northill Parish Council spokeswoman, said: "The proposal for a play area has come about as a direct result of the recognition, over many years, of the shortfall in the provision of young children's play equipment on Ickwell Green as referenced in our recent Neighbourhood Plan and by Central Beds Council in their Leisure Strategy.

Ickwell May Pole. Photos: Michael Roadnight.

"After publicity; discussions with Central Beds Play Officer; and a number of meetings with different contractors, the Parish Council has finally agreed a scheme which consists of small pieces of sympathetic wooden play equipment set against a back drop of trees located on an area previously overgrown with brambles and nettles, and well removed from the busiest roads.

"The two fallen limbs from the venerable oak tree by the cricket pitch will also be incorporated into the scheme.

"The nearest piece of equipment is over four metres from the edge of the permanent arena which surrounds the Maypole."

The spokeswoman added: "The parish council were in conversation with both the Conservation Officer and the Planning Department and because of its wooden construction and the size and height of the equipment it was confirmed that no planning permission was needed."

A plan of the proposed Woodland Play Area can be seen on Northill Parish Council's website https://www.northillparishcouncil.gov.ukWhat do you think? Email: [email protected]