Sonning Common Skatepark: Five years in the making

Published by Alex Jordan
March 29, 2015

The Henley Standard have confirmed that a brand new skate park has finally been given the go ahead to be built in Sonning Common, almost five years after the idea was first raised by local BMXer Archie Stevenson.

Archie initially requested that the local parish council build a Skate park back in 2010, when he was only 11 years old. Recognising that there was nowhere local for him and his friends to practice their tricks. In Oxfordshire, the nearest skatepark to Sonning Common is in Henley, which itself is campaigning for an upgrade.

In July 2010, Stevenson pleaded with the parish council to build a BMX bike park in the village, saying there was nothing for him and his friends to do.

At the time, Stevenson explained the reason behind his campaign: “One of the nearest parks is Henley. It is difficult getting there with a bike without a big car and it is extremely hard to travel long distances on a BMX, they are only built for doing tricks.”

Carole Lewis, chair of the Sonning Common skate park committee, told the Henley standard: “The youth of this village have long campaigned for such a facility and it is wonderful to begin construction of the skate park this spring.The parish council has approved the project and it is hoped that construction of the 45m x 30m structure will start by the end of the month.”

The good news is that South Oxfordshire District Council have now given planning permission for the skate park at Bishopswood sports ground, off Horsepond Road in Gallowstree Common. Although there is no official start date, Carol Lewis was optimistic about the build time, telling the Henley Standard that the park could be built in as little as three months. “we just want them to start as soon as they can. We have waited a long time to get to this point.” She added.

The Park will be built by Wheelscape, who have more than 25 years’ experience of providing skate parks. The project will cost £100,000, but apparently £85,000 has already been raised. So far, the park’s main supporters have been Lafarge Tarmac and South Oxfordshire District Council as well as community fund-raising and local support.

It hasn’t been an easy road for the campaign. More than 60 residents had the final say when it came to design and over summer 2011, planning applications were submitted to the district council. Unfortunately, this was delayed in 2012 due to concerns over cost and location.

This was resolved in the summer of 2012, with the cooperation (and a £7,000 grant) from Rotherfield United Football Club who gave up part of their site to build a roller park for the village.

In May, after meeting the approval of 20 young skaters and BMXers, Wheelscape was appointed after the original contractor, 1Skateparks, went into receivership. The park was awarded a further £15k by the parish council, but construction was again delayed by paperwork transferring the land from the football club to the council which had not been signed.

In March, the latest report suggests that planning permission has again delayed the build start date, but after 5 years, Stevenson and the Sonning Common Skatepark committee haven’t given up, and we’re estactic to report that building work began on 29th March 2015. You can track the progress on the Sonning Common Rollerpark Facebook Page.