A LONG awaited decision will soon be made over the future of Galmington Playing Fields.

Contention has been rumbling underneath the surface since planning permission was granted for a cancer centre to be built on a section of land on the open space.

Former authority Taunton Deane Borough Council approved plans in March for the Maggies Cancer Centre to be built on the site of a small children’s play area, featuring little more than two swings.

The two-storey building would be an after-treatment centre featuring a kitchen, exercise room, library and multi-purpose room, and would cater for around 7,500 visits a year providing support for cancer patients and their families.

A new children’s play area would be built elsewhere on the park.

But residents were keen to remind the council that although they were not opposed to the centre coming to Taunton, the chosen land was a ‘deed of gift’ left to the people by former Taunton MP, Brigadier Andrew Hamilton Gault in 1931 and they fear opening the flood gates to other developments on open spaces.

The new Lib Dem-led Somerset West and Taunton Council has inherited the decision from its predecessors - and they now have to decided whether or not to lift the covenant.

Council leader Federica Smith-Roberts visited the field to meet with your County Gazette, but was met by an unexpected crowd of residents eager to voice their concerns.

She said: “It’s an emotive discussion.

“I don’t think this should be a decision made by 10 councillors on the executive, the subject goes back around 10 years.

“There is going to be a members briefing on October 29 for it to be discussed.

“I have been holding more members briefings as I feel it enables clear and confident decisions.”

More than 100 residents signed a petition urging the council not to approve the plans, and their momentum to stop the project has not ceased since planning permission was granted.

A spokesman for the Friends of Galmington Playing Fields said: “Saving our park, in addition to not building on green spaces, were key manifesto pledges as part of the election campaign. There are high levels of support from councillors and party members to uphold that promise.

“We, the Friends of Galmington Playing Field committee will keep working with the leadership so that they are able to uphold those manifesto pledges and to agree a solution that will be mutually acceptable to all those involved.“

But the value of the centre to the entirety of Taunton has to be considered, according to the council.

Cllr Smith-Roberts added: “We want to make the best use of the facilities, and we have to think about everyone.

“We definitely want there to be a Maggies Centre in Taunton.

“Council CEO James Hassett has been looking into it, exploring the financial and legal ramifications, which will be discussed at the October briefing.

“It is then hoped it will be brought before full council on November 12.

“Maggies has the planning permission but the covenant would need to be lifted, as the council holds the land in trust.

“I am aware of the concerns surrounding the principle of building on the open space.

“But protecting open spaces doesn’t mean leaving them neglected, which is what has happened here under the previous administration.”

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