Agenda item

Parks and Playgrounds

To receive a presentation from Head of Operational Services, James Duggin on Parks and Playgrounds, in particular;


-       Strategy and Action Plan - overview

-       Progress and plans

-       How the work is moving forward


The Portfolio Holder for Operations has been invited to the meeting for this item.


The Committee welcomed James Duggin, Head of Operational Services, who was in attendance to give a presentation on the Borough’s parks and play grounds.


Mr Duggin provided an overview of the current Strategy, which had been approved by the Cabinet in December, 2019, following a series of meetings with the Policy and Project Advisory Board. The Committee were apprised of the locations of the 40 Council owned sites across the Borough, which varied in quality, standard and usage. It was noted that a key strategic principle within the Strategy had been to ensure that for every resident in the Borough should have either; an equipped playground within a five-minute walk (0.4 km) or; a neighbourhood playground within a fifteen-minute walk (1.2 km); with either complimented by a destination facility at one of the key parks within the area. It was advised that the principles also stated, that:


·         Sites should be of a high quality with diverse play facilities

·         Sites should be maintained to ensure a safe and high-quality experience

·         Continued assessment should be carried out on population demographics to ensure appropriate provision

·         Consideration of levels of deprivation be taken into account when considering playground provision


Mr Duggin advised that recent census data had shown a population increase within the Borough. However, the data showed a decrease in 0-4 year olds and an increase in 5-9 year olds, with the figures for 10-14 year olds remaining static. These statistics could result in a reduction in demand for smaller sites aimed at the youngest age group.


The Committee were advised on some recent work to sites including, Moor Road Recreation Ground, Blunden Park and King George V Playing Fields. The new site at the Southwood Country Park was also noted. Other minor refurbishment  works were highlighted, these included a minor refurbishment and repaint at Carlton Gardens, new fencing at Aspen Grove and surface replacement, repaint and equipment service at Howard Cole Way.


Looking forward, Mr Duggin advised on further minor refurbishments and the Committee noted that old equipment had been built to last, allowing the Council to repaint and service much of it, however, health and safety remained a high priority on all sites. It was also noted that sites not on the Council’s land, such as Curly Bridge Close, Fleming Close, Highclere Road, Derwent Close and Dart Road, considered to be at the end of life, would be recommended to close.


The Committee were apprised of the financial arrangements. It was note that the current maintenance budget had been around £65,000 and to fully implement the Action Plan within the Strategy would cost in the region of £3million. Section 106 (S106) contributions were noted and it was advised that currently, contributions in Aldershot were in the region of £280,000 and in Farnborough £684,000. The Committee were advised that S106 funding had very specific guidelines and currently a number of sites were under development or awaiting contributions at Southwood Country Park, Cove Green Recreation Ground, Redan Hill Gardens, Farnborough Civic Quarter and Elles Road.


In conclusion, it was noted that the Strategy had been developed to ensure ongoing appropriate play provision across the Borough with investment targeted in the right place. Some funding had been available for ongoing maintenance but it had been insufficient to fund the whole strategy, therefore S106 contributions were sought wherever possible. Moving forward funding would be considered alongside other Council priorities in the budget setting process.


The Committee discussed the presentation and raised the following queries:


·         Accessible play equipment - it was advised that all sites were designed to be accessible but not to have disabled appropriate equipment

·         Provision of S106 in areas not likely to receive a contribution for development – it was advised that the Council would apply as much flexibility as possible when applying for S106 contributions

·         Provision for 12-16 year olds – It was noted that this age group fell outside the scope for play provision within the Council’s strategy which only accounted for young people up to the age of 14

·         Safety check process – it was noted that all sites were inspected either daily of weekly, depending on use. On a monthly basis a qualified inspector would carry out checks and full condition surveys would be undertaken annually. If a piece of equipment was deemed unsafe it would be taken out of commission

·         End of life play areas – when a play area reached end of life the Council would look to provide an area that was safe and appropriate for the area, however there were cost implications

·         Funding – the Committee noted that an imaginative approach had been taken towards funding play areas, primarily through the use of S106, however, when all else failed, a bid could be made for funding from the capital budget


The Chairman thanked Mr Duggin for his presentation.