How one of Doncaster's newest estates is building a proper community

It's one of the newest estates in Doncaster - and the people who lived there are trying to build it up into a proper community.

Monday, 20th August 2018, 10:46 am
Residents from Woodfield Plantation and Balby Carr are trying to foster a community spirit. Pictured left to right, back, are parents Emma Bentham, Laura Chambers, Rebecca Bradburn and Lewis Hardy; and front, children Thomas Bentham (13 months), Lola Chambers (13 months), Freddie Chambers (five), and Calvin Hardy (two). Picture: David Kessen

The Woodfield Plantation and Carr Lodge development has been built up over the last few years. Hundreds more properties are due to be built there over the future.

And in that time families have moved onto the site, and have tried to foster a community spirit - even though they have no community centre or playing fields yet.

Councillors Martin Greenhalgh and Nigel Cannings at the Woodfield Plantation estate, Doncaster. Picture: David Kessen

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There was a promise of a community centre in the plans for the estate. But that has yet to materialise, and is not due to be built until the third phase of the scheme.

In the meantime, residents who have already moved in have pulled together and started organising their own community events.

They have also set up their own neighbourhood watch, and are in talks to set up what they think would be Doncaster's first neighbouhood council.

Mum Emma Bentham, of Orion Way, is among those at the heart of the campaigning for a community. She has been living on the estate for three years.

She said: "We got to know our immediate neighbours straight away, but we'd like to build a community. I'd like more for the young chidren to do. At the moment there is a park next to the primary school, with a zip wire and monkey bars, and exercise equipment. There's an enclosed basketball and football court. We'd like to see more for smaller children. There's a new park with a slide and climbing frame, but we'd to see more in there.

"We organised an Easter Egg hunt at Easter and we arranged a Royal Wedding Party when Prince Harry got married. We have a social media group too. We got to know a lot of people through those events. We also had a litter pick which brought the community together. Now we're looking at a community picnic this summer."

Neighbour Rebecca Bradburn said: "When we bought, we were told there would be a community centre and playing fields.But those have not been built yet. We think that having a community is still very important.

"I think its important to have that centre. We could have baby groups there. At the moment most mums go to Balby for things like that.

Emma added: "We're trying to develop a community for all the residents who live here. A community centre would be brilliant. Perhaps a temporary mobile building could be put in place until they build the permanant one? At the end of the day, we've got no community centre at present, and anything would be better than that.

Playing fields are also seen as important by the residents. Dad Lewis Hardy, a qualified football coach living on the estate, said he would be pleased to run coaching sessions when they are created.

The estate is close to Carr Lodge Primary School, but use of its facilities are limited to school hours.

They have also set up a neighbourhood watch. It is registered and the first meeting has been held.

There are now plans to set up a neighbourhood council - a sort of organisation like a parish council to give the residents a voice.

Residents have been in touch with their ward councillors, Martin Greenhalgh and Nigel Cannings, who are in talks with Doncaster Council over the proposal.

Meetings about the project have taken place in the cafe of the nearby Tesco superstore.

Coun Greenhalgh said: "We think the locals need community council status. It is something we are looking to set up for the Carr Lodge and Woodfield Plantation area

"It would be a community, parish, type council. It would have its own bank account and a there would be a local precept, a small charge on top of the council tax, for each household.

"We would have to pay a clerk and formulate rules but it would be a good pressure group. There are another 480 houses to come, making 6,000. You can't just build newhouses and walk away."

The proposed community council would be able to take up issues such as school places, the community centre, and other issues on the estate such as traffic and broadband access, which residents says are issues at present.

The plans for the community centre are in the hands of Homes England, the Government organisation which controls infrastructure elements of major housing schemes.

Amanda Keeton, the agency's senior specialist for accelerated delivery for North East Yorkshire and the Humber, says the community centre is still planned.

She said: "Homes England remains committed to the masterplan for phase three of the scheme which includes the provision of a community hall and play areas.

"We fully understand that the residents of Woodfield Plantation and Carr Lodge are keen to build a community spirit and we are committed to helping them do so. We will be speaking with local community groups and look forward to working with them in order to understand their needs and assess priorities for the provision of an interim solution."