Wellington Park is to stay in local hands. A packed meeting of the town council voted to resist efforts from the national Fields in Trust charity to share control of the four-acre park, given to Wellington by the Fox family in 1902.
Over 35 members of the public packed the meeting and many spoke fiercely in defence of the park in what was often a passionate debate. Some questioned the role of Taunton Deane council, current legal owners of the land, in trying to involve Fields in Trust in the park’s future.
Simon Fox, great-grandson of one of the original donors, said: “I think a transfer to Fields in Trust (FIT) could trigger a change of ownership back to the donor family rather than to Wellington town council.” His cousin Richard Fox warned that the original indentures transferring the land were unclear and that a legal opinion should be sought before any action is taken.
Whatever the legal technicalities, it was clear to the meeting how much the park is loved by local people. “To give this treasure away would be disastrous. The park’s unique character has to be preserved,” said John Angus of Holyoake St.
“I use the park a great deal and lack of certainty about its future frightens the life out of me,” added Holly Redon-Jones.
Speaking for the local Royal British Legion, Ray Fuller objected strongly to any impact such a change of control might have on the War Memorial and the Garden of Remembrance.
Voices in favour of an involvement from Fields in Trust included former mayor Dave Mitton, speaking for the Friends of Wellington Park. “Initially I had my doubts about this proposal but we’ve now come to a different view,” he said. “They don’t in any way seek to manage or control the park, only to protect it in perpetuity.
“In fact, we think it’s such a good idea that other open spaces such as the Recreation Ground could be registered with FIT and protected.” Mr Mitton pointed to a past proposal to put housing on the Rec.
“FIT would not take ownership but in fact provide safeguards against any future attempts to change the Park’s use,” said Cllr Janet Reed. “We’re very lucky to have this offer and much of this scare-mongering is unnecessary and dangerous in my view.”
Numerous councillors pointed out that Taunton Deane had not offered to put Vivary Park under the protection and auspices of FIT. “If it’s such a great idea why don’t TDBC test it on Vivary rather than pushing it on to Wellington, when we said clearly at a council meeting last July that it was unwelcome?” asked Cllr Peter Critchard.
The council voted to overwhelmingly to inform Taunton Deane of the town’s opposition to any involvement by ~FIT in the park. Cllrs Reed and Stock Williams voted against.