At first sight a meeting of Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet may not appear to be the obvious topic for an article on Our Heritage. The particular meeting in question was on 23rd October with Cabinet members facing a lengthy agenda of 626 pages. Somewhere, buried in the pages of the agenda, was an issue of great importance to the local heritage. Business was, and usually is, brisk with significant decisions being made on recommendations of key importance to residents. It took a mere two and a quarter hours to reach Agenda Item 15 on page 585. There were less than a handful of observers, but they were waiting with baited breath: Our Heritage and our future were both at issue.
The Agenda item was entitled ‘Centenary Fields’ and it carried a clear officer recommendation that Cabinet agree to four sites in Flintshire being submitted to Fields in Trust as Centenary Fields. The sites in question were:
Further recommendations were that Cabinet authorise the Deed of Dedication with Fields in Trust to be signed on behalf of the Council, if the application is successful, and also that Cabinet agrees to a series of events being held to mark the occasion of the sites being designated as Centenary Fields.
The Centenary Fields programme, launched as Fields in Trust, is an initiative to honour the memory of those who lost their lives during World War One by safeguarding valued, open spaces in perpetuity for future generations. The programme aims to have at least one green space in each local authority area. In order to meet the criteria for acceptance the site must have a connection with World War One and must also be accessible to members of the local community.
It is to the credit of members of Hope Community Council that they nominated the Willows as such a site to be considered. Following consultations with Flintshire’s Legal, Estates, Streetscene and Planning Services a final list of sites to be nominated as Centenary Fields was agreed and the Willows was on the list for Cabinet consideration.
It has to be said that the community should also be grateful to the local team of members of www.flintshirewarmemorials.com and also to those who worked on the 2014 HLF-funded project which commemorated the local servicemen who fell in World War One. A copy of the local booklet ‘Hope Parish Remembers’ had been made available to officers to support the case. Project group member Andrew Moss produced a map which shows that the Willows playing Field was at the centre of a community which suffered to loss of sixty local servicemen.
That map can be viewed here.
The officers now entrusted with the task of submitting the application to Fields in Trust also wanted to know about current uses of the Willows Playing Field and members of the local community who responded to the appeal, made on social media sites, by submitting photographs have also helped. The Willows Playing Field is an important part of our heritage which deserves to be preserved for future generations. It is an area which has been subjected to various planning applications which have raised questions about its future.
It was extremely heartening to see that the Flintshire Cabinet gave unanimous agreement to the recommendation for The Willows to be submitted to Fields in Trust as a Centenary Field. Members spoke about the need for this to be taken off the list of Flintshire’s assets which are available for sale and for any uncertainty about the site, in its entirety, to be ended.
If the application is successful the existing arrangements for managing and maintaining the site will remain the same. Once the Deed of Dedication has been signed the resulting restriction will be required to be registered with the Land Registry. The decision will be legally binding, protecting the site from being considered as a disposable asset. Consent would be required from Fields in Trust for any future change of use outside the terms of the agreed Deed. There is a target date for all Deeds of Dedication to be completed by May 2019. If successful the Willows will receive a commemorative plaque to be displayed at the field.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523