Word of the week in the Vizes; Splashpad (apparently Word sees it as one word) So, who wants to splash and who wants to whinge? I ask Town Clerk, Simon Fisher the questions which need to be asked……..
Once upon a time there was a slash-pad on the Green in Devizes, dubbed a drug-hatch, it was a public loo popular with vandals, in a pretty shabby state and kept closed much of the time. Now it’s a haven for the youngest of our community, who on summery days can play and splash until their hearts content. What a wonderful prospect if this could be a reality, yet despite a huge response to a Gazette & Herald article last week, which only stated “Devizes COULD get a splash-pad on the green,” both speculation and hope have seen an unprecedented online reaction.
Are we just “keeping up with the Jones’,” namely, Melksham, shouldn’t we be conserving water, is it an open invitation to vandals? There’s a sure quantity of negativity surrounding the idea, and personally I’d like to ensure a budget for children’s activities is equal for all ages and not just the toddlers, in an era where we’ve seen the closure of youth centres et all. Though my hand is swayed by my own fond memories of how the two mini-mes enjoyed splashpads, obviously me too, a little!
Hats off to Melksham, their largely Lib-Dem council have made a success story from the project. Water used in a splashpad is a tiny percentage of a town’s supply, no more than a swimming pool and no one is rallying outside the Leisure Centre, are they? There are two approaches to splashpad mechanics; a flow-through system and recirculating system. A recirculating system operates like a pool with chemicals, filters and pumps. Water is sent to the pad from a tank roughly four to five times the system’s flow rate; in short, it’s recycled, people.
As to vandalism, I have to cough. While it’s possible, and certain lengths will have to be introduced to ensure it isn’t, what we have now, a toilet block is a far cry from pristine. Litter, yes, litter happens there anyway, splashpad or slash-pad; surely, it’s a matter of trust and education, added on top the concept if you give the young something to do, rather than lounging on vacant grass bored, perhaps they’d repay it with gratitude and consideration. A long shot you may cry, but it’s a presumptuous cry, isn’t it?
Are we getting ahead of ourselves here though? I thought I’d play Devil’s advocate and fire some questions, Town Clerk Simon Fisher dared to answer them! “The project is still at a relatively infant stage,” he begins. “At the end of last summer, the Town Council was approached by a number of parents who asked if Devizes could have its own Splash Pad and therefore the Council needed to determine if there was a general demand for such a facility and also if a suitable site could be found. That initial phase of the project was completed just before Christmas, with a report to Council identifying a potential site, cost implications and evidence that a Splash Pad facility would be well used.”
“As you would expect, whenever we evaluate the need for a facility there will always be those who have no need for it and therefore resist its delivery,” Simon continued, obviously unable to name them fuddy-duddies who wouldn’t know fun if it came up and slapped them around the chops with an inflatable banana, but hey, I will! “But that is very much in the realm of public service provision, therefore whilst we must not ignore non-users, what is important is that we ensure that if money is spent on facilities they will be well used.”
I agree, we must not ignore them, we must splash them!!
“One of the comments you have raised, about the time of year it will be used and the assumption that it will only be used during the summer is a fair one,” said Mr Fisher. Oh, yeah, I did ask that; hardly Hawaii, is it? “However, this facility is not unique in this, with most of the outdoor facilities we provide seeing a massive drop off in use during the winter.”
See me screwing up my face, which is never a good thing, my Nan used to say I’d get stuck like it, but our other outdoor facilities aren’t a massive new cost; they’re football goals and swings. Sorry, that’s unfair; Hillworth park’s renovation is wonderful. Let’s look at that shall we? Summer days I go there, I see kids of all ages, really active, enjoying every minute, and I never see them dropping litter; coincidence? But money, innit, that’s what it comes down to.
“There is clearly a cost implication attached to providing any capital project and we still have to determine how a Splash Pad will be funded,” Simon explained. “There are two elements to this, one is the capital cost, for which we will seek developer contributions and grants but this will need some Town Council seed funding. The other is revenue funding, ensuring any facility is well maintained and this will come from the Council; however, this funding may also support the upgrading of services more generally in the area and the Splash Pad will do this for the Green. Many of the services we provide are free at the point of delivery and a Splash Pad is likely to be such a service.”
My note on spreading the budget equally on all ages of youngster, Simon seems positive such a project would impact on the area as a whole. “The Splash Pad project may well see the provision of a café facility on the Green, which will enhance the area as a place to “hang out”. Many teenagers already do this; therefore, this will enable us to manage the space and keep it clean, which is a current criticism.” Yep, jobs too; a parkie, like Ranger John Smith; he chased bears smarter than the average, away from pic-a-nic baskets, though; we’d need Dwayne Johnson on the nightwatch!
He also expressed the projects already in place for older kids. “Whilst youth services remain principally the responsibility of the Unitary Authority, Wiltshire Council, whose budget for this purpose has been progressively cut in the last few years, Devizes Town Council does seek to provide facilities for all ages.” A major downer, as in another story, I’ve been waiting two years for a response from Wiltshire Council about when they’re due to repair a bouncy chicken and swing in a Rowde playpark; so I wouldn’t blow up your arm bands just yet.
“A few years ago,” Simon explained, “we built a large skate park for older children at our Green Lane site at a cost of over £150k and we are in the middle of a £1.7m investment for new football facilities, again aimed at older children and adults.” I have to take off my hat here, with or without Wi-Fi, satisfying most teenagers is near impossible, for the record I was a right stroppy one, though I’d imagine you’d find that hard to believe.
One thing is easy though, satisfying younger kids. Babies will play with a box, a set of car keys, toddlers happily play in a muddy puddle, why get a splashpad, just section off our road’s potholes?! Honestly, I’m certain that’s the pompous attitude of many of us. Toddlers though, soon learn how to whinge and whine to get what they want, or don’t want. Where do they pick this stuff up from? I’ll remind you, shall I? They get it from us, so quit your selfish whinging, just because you’ve outgrown your water-wings and spare a thought for the kids. Splashpad, I’m all over it, pal!
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