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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

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Cumbrian play centre given stay of execution by planners

A children's play centre and youth cafe threatened with demolition has been given a stay of execution by planners.

Cockermouth play centre photo
Sandra Robinson and Peggy Bradshaw from Jordan's Jungle

The former warehouse housing Jordan’s Jungle, on Lorton Street, Cockermouth, has been earmarked for demolition along with the warehouse next door to make way for two houses.

But Allerdale councillors considering the plans voted to visit the centre to see if the youth cafe work done there should entitle it to protection.

More than 1,000 people wrote letters of objection or signed petitions against the plan and Cumbria police said the youth cafe – run on Monday and Friday nights – resulted in a fall in anti-social behaviour.

But planning officers told the development panel the merits of the business alone were not legitimate reasons for refusing planning permission.

Planning manager Kevin Kerrigan said it could not be argued that demolishing the warehouses would have a negative impact on the conservation area.

He said the planned houses were also acceptable in planning terms.

Some councillors felt they could have an argument for giving the business the same protection afforded to to community facilities like leisure centres and swimming pools.

Jane Mackrill, speaking on behalf of Jordan’s Jungle, told councillors the centre, launched in 2008 by Peggy Bradshaw, was a thriving business, offering a place for young children to play during the day, with soft and adventure play areas, a range of animals to pet and a cafe, as well as the busy youth cafe.

She said: “It’s a travesty if Jordan’s Jungle was forced to close to facilitate a small number of houses.”

But Stuart Woodall, agent for Mitchells Auction Company Ltd, said the half of the firm’s buildings on Station Road and Lorton Street were empty and it had to address that.

He added that Mrs Bradshaw was offered the chance to buy the Jordan’s Jungle building from Mitchells last year and declined.

Mr Woodall said: “Our client, like any other business, is actively reacting to the current economic climate and ensuring their interests are protected.”

Councillors were torn between the community’s desire for Jordan’s Jungle to remain and the officers’ recommendation that there were no obvious planning grounds on which to refuse the proposed development.

Councillor Joe Holliday said: “We wouldn’t dream of giving permission for a children’s play area to be removed to make room for a couple of houses. I think this is a children’s play area even though it has a roof.”

Councillor Bill Finlay said more expectation was not being put on the private sector to provide community facilities and they should be given the same treatment as publicly-run facilities.

But Councillor Jim Lister said: “Surely it’s every owner’s right to do what they want with their property.

“If Mitchells want to do something different with their property we should let them.”

Councillor Martin Wood said the volume of letters received showed the centre was the only one of its kind in Cockermouth and had resulted in a drop in crime.

He added: “Anti-social behaviour has plummeted because of the place. It’s seen as a community centre. It’s used as a community centre. It’s a community centre, simple as that.”

Councillors will visit the youth cafe on a Friday evening before the next development panel meeting on April 9.

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