Plans to turn park into ‘destination for sport and recreation’ get go-ahead

West Oxfordshire District Council has unanimously granted Courtside, the social enterprise behind The Coffee Shed and Premier Tennis, permission to develop The Leys recreation ground in Witney into a multi-activity hub.

Following public consultation, the plans were updated to improve accessibility.

Oxford Mail: General manager of The Coffee Shed Vonnie Whalley with assistant manager Saphron Driskell and team

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A new wider pedestrian path will make it easier and safer for people on mobility scooters and in wheelchairs to get into the park and additional disabled parking spaces are being installed along with designated parking for mobility scooters and bicycles.

To ensure the safety of walkers, the service lane leading to the hub will be used only by authorised vehicles belonging to staff, delivery vehicles and by people driving to the disabled parking spaces.

The project is being funded by £649,000 levelling up money from the Government, which has been matched with contributions from landowner Witney Town Council and Courtside as leaseholder.

The town council is contributing £250,000, plus a further sum that had already been set aside for the regeneration of the skate park. 

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Cllr Ruth Smith, leader of Witney Town Council, said: “As custodians of the The Leys, Witney’s flagship destination for sport and recreation, Witney Town Council is thrilled to be working in partnership with Courtside on this exciting multi-activity hub project.

“This expansion of The Coffee Shed and racket sports is great news for the town, and we are proud to be playing a part in enabling it as a town council.

“Our efforts have included direct investment, as well as covering related costs, such as relocating and modernising our works depot and splash park plant equipment to future-proof those services for Witney residents.”

Oxford Mail: Adventure golf course at The Leys

The approved plans include a new kitchen and increased seating at The Coffee Shed café, better public access toilets and changing rooms, indoor activity space, a redesigned skatepark, four full-size tennis courts, mini tennis courts, covered padel courts and a mix of other outdoor activities including netball, 3×3 basketball, table tennis and shuffleboard.

In response to public demand, new changing facilities were added to the plans. These will be accessible year-round for sports teams using the Leys who will also benefit from new LED court lighting.

Park landscaping improvements will achieve a biodiversity net gain of 56 per cent.

Jeff Hunter, CEO of Courtside, said: “This has been a huge team effort. We are thrilled to have had our plans for a multi-activity hub on The Leys approved.

Oxford Mail: The Leys recreation ground

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“Once complete, these exciting new facilities will help realise our vision of bringing people together and encouraging them to be active, serving as a base for connecting the community and encouraging physical and social well-being, while protecting The Leys as a place of rest and recreation for future generations.”

Courtside hopes to appoint a local construction company in the coming weeks.

During the build, the facilities including the adventure playground and mini golf will be open as usual, and food and drink will be available from a new converted horsebox manned by the Coffee Shed team.

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