Bognor residents furious as beloved field is fenced off

Residents from Whitfield Close are furious after a field which has been used to access local schools, shops and facilities for the last 50 years was fenced off by a new owner.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 7:17 pm
Updated Friday, 9th July 2021, 7:31 pm

“We’ve always used the field, always walked over it. It opens up to all the other fields and it’s a really nice 45 minute walk.

“Quite honestly, if you live around here, there aren’t many other assets around. There are a lot of old people living here who just want to be able to take their dog for a walk- it’s quite important to them to be able to do it.”

So said John Watling- just one of many Whitfield Close residents who oppose the fencing off of a beloved stretch of land near their homes.

Residents are furious at the decision
Residents are furious at the decision

Although never technically public, residents have used the footpaths through the field to get to work and walk their dogs for nearly 50 years.

Now under new ownership, many are upset by the idea they may never use it again.

“I’ve lived here for 18 years. I used to walk my boys and the child-minding children I used to care for across the fields everyday. Rather than going on the roads, they got to go out and experience nature.

“The children just loved the fact that, once they got out of school, they had that freedom to run and enjoy and not have any restrictions. I think that, actually, what they’re doing now is just persecuting the community,” said Sarah Denman, another longtime Whitfield Close resident.

With no concrete plans for the future of the site, residents are anxious about what might happen to it and how it might affect their lives. One prominent concern is motocross practice, which residents say will disrupt wildlife and cause noise pollution.

But new owner Callan Wood, who also owns CW Bikes, has dismissed these ideas as ‘a load of nonsense’.

“We purchased the field to do some motorhoming, some camping with my kids,” he said. “A few years back, we ran a little kids pit bike track there once- with permission- and we haven’t done anything like that since.

“Everyone’s asking what I want to do with it, but I don’t really know yet. I bought it for my kids to enjoy.”

Whatever he decides to use the site for, Mr Wood insists it will be in better condition than it was.

“People used to walk their dogs there without picking up the mess. You had people getting drunk in the evenings, having fires and leaving beer bottles everywhere. The place has been a complete wasteland for so many years.

“It was absolutely derelict. There was no love. There was dog poo and litter everywhere.

“I’m the only guy who’s prepared to make a stand and try to make this land into something nice, into something useful.”

Mr Wood said he has tried to work with residents to keep the field open but that the response to his ownership has been so heated he feels forced to fence it off.

“We gave them a chance to keep it all open. When I first agreed to buy it, we left it as it was. We just wanted to use it for my kids to run around in- we got little electric bikes and all sort of things we wanted to do. But the way the locals were to us about it was absolutely disgusting. So we pretty much had no other choice. We had to make a stand and not let random people walk all over this field.”

Even so, he hopes for a future in which he can see eye to eye with residents, find something resembling a compromise.

“We’re not a massive building company. We’re locals and, we just want to better the area and make some use of this land. But it’s got to be give and take,” he said.