Swings and Roundabouts; Hope for Dilapidated Playgrounds in the Devizes Area?

A lengthy but worthwhile report on the state of our playparks and those intending to do something about it….

August 3rd 2019, and I’d had enough of marching to parish council meetings, emailing Wiltshire Council and talking to brick walls, unsure if I did the latter, but it certainly felt like it. So, I published my rant about a village playpark left to dilapidation for well over three years.

Both swings had been taken down, and a dangerously sharp metal baseplate is all that remains of a broken bouncy chicken, the want of repairing these, what’s essentially half the play equipment in the community playpark, has been lost in a tangle of red tape. Wiltshire Council own the site, and in their so-called “transfer of assets,” which roughly translates to passing the buck to local busy-bodies, Rowde Parish Council asked they repair the broken equipment beforehand, and because of the delay the playpark was conveniently brushed under the carpet.

February last year I bugged Councillor Laura Mayes with it, who claimed to have secured over £20,000 funding from Wiltshire Council to re-design the playground, despite all I wanted was them to fix the existing equipment, and she ran with it as a major pledge for her election campaign.

Am I here to bring you a fairy-tale ending? Only on paper.

It sprinkled optimism, the children who originally played here have grownup and had children of their own in the time it has taken Wiltshire Council to fix a swing and replace a bouncy chicken, and they’ve STILL not done it; you hold out hope they’ll build you a whole new railway station?!

I’m told the transfer of assets is just weeks away, but after six years of waiting, ranting and election pledges as broken as the bouncy chicken, I’ll believe it when I see it.

All about priorities, isn’t it? Swings and bouncy chickens aren’t going to get Mr Kruger to Westminster any faster. Playparks hold no interest to me personally either, councillors; my children long grown out of them, but maybe there’s something wrong with me, the part that gives a hoot.

The part which recalls the joy my children once had, the joy I once had, playing in the park, that most other adults seem to have so easily forgotten; particularly those who seem to consider those little people are not of voting age. Aside, playparks provide essential wellbeing and psychical education for our youngest, they learn social interaction there, dexterity and balance.

My brother and I on a 1970s style health & safety inspected slide!!

They need prioritising, particularly if you enjoy a Facebook rant on how teenagers are terrorising your neighbourhood. Tenaciously they’re linked; literally swings and roundabouts, I’ve heard some residents in Devizes want their community parks to be closed as they attract rowdy teenagers. There’s anti-social behaviour because nothing is provided for them to do, and by cutting off activities for the youngest you believe will solve it for the next generation? Why not cut off your nose in spite your face too?!

Not all Doom and Gloom

Devizes Lions supported this new playground at All Cannings School last year

Enraged residents taken to local Facebook groups is a near everyday scenario, last one I saw was the fence and climbing equipment behind the old barracks had been removed, but as usual such threads only produce a barrage of speculation, whereas at the beginning of the month, Councillor Jonathan Hunter was encouraged by my grievance on the issue, and set up a report to investigate the state of all playparks in Devizes. These minutes are published, but as with most Council meetings, who really trudges through billions of insignificant applications for an extension to a greenhouse or a churchyard which needs its weathercock cleaning?!

So, here’s the results of Devizes Town Council findings, you need to tell me if they’re accurate, because I get confused with so many playparks which one is which. Hearsay tells me Dowse Road is in desperate need of repair, Wadworth and Spitalcroft Roads are still chained up, and one on Festival close is closed too.

We all should note with importance, again it’s this transfer of issues argument, where the Town Council have taken responsibility for a number of playgrounds and the report explains, “at the time of the transfer, many of the areas were closed due to maintenance issues and the Open Spaces team have been gradually working their way through the list of closures to reopen them where they can. The sites that have not been opened have more serious safety concerns and need a decision by this committee how to proceed.” So, should you choose to go through the proper channels rather than whine-hole on Facebook, this is the reasoning you’ll likely get, if any.

Okay here we go, just give me second to correct the councillor’s basic grammar and don’t forget to call them out to me, if they’re tugging their own tugboats!

The report flagged three playgrounds in need of major attention. Wadworth Road, they say is currently closed because during the last inspection much of the equipment was flagged as unsafe. Part of the issue with the equipment on this site is its wooden construction as there is some rot. However, to undertake core test sampling with reports is about £250 per sample and each piece of equipment will need to have several tests and there is a high probability it will fail; therefore, in officers’ opinion, given the costs to simply test for something that is likely to fail, officers suggest that there is some local consultation with residents as this is another site where young people gather and have been involved with anti-social behaviour.

Festival Close was closed when it was taken over from Wiltshire Council as it has failed safety inspection as a result of shrinking safety surface. The cost of replacement is £11,269. However, a number of residents are not in favour of the playground being reinstated and therefore the site may benefit from some local consultation.

One of three on Massey Road was closed when Devizes Town Council took on the site, with all of the wooden equipment beyond cost of effective repair. Given the proximity of this play area to the two others on the estate, officers decided to remove the equipment and return the area to a green space, which was welcomed by the residents.

The others are apparently open, some with advisories.

Alan Cobham Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There is some shrinkage of the play safety surface, but at this time no action is needed.

Avon Road: Recreational Field Avon Road

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. Some equipment has been replaced over the last few years and there are no outstanding issues.

Bellvedere Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Brickley Lane:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. Last year some of the safety surface was replaced with a loose rubber crumb. It was the first time the Council had trialled these systems and officers are not fully convinced it would work on all our sites where a safety surface is required.

In recent months the issue of dogs being exercised in the area has come to the fore as owners are not clearing up. Signs have been put up a couple of times, telling owners not to bring their dog into the recreation area and therefore tensions are running high from both sides, with dog owners who say they have used the area for years without incident and parents of children complaining they can no longer let their children use the area.

Editor note: Hi me here, just to point out, this is down to community and moral obligation, rather than council responsibility, like having a conscience and not allowing your dog to shit where children are playing; basic manners and stuff like that!  

Byron Rd:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Cowslip Close Cowslip Close:

This play area is open and is currently in a serviceable condition but offers poor play value with just two pieces of equipment. The play area was closed for a while and during this period officers did not receive any complaints.

This site may benefit from local consultation on its future, with local residents. An estimated cost of a small play area is £60,000.

Dowse Road Wadworth Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. The safety surfacing is at the end of its life and does need to be replaced this year. The cost of this is £13,675.

Dundas Close:

This barely a play area as it consists of a single metal hoop. The area provides little in the way of play value and there is a good quality Aster owned play area. There was an approach a few years ago to turn the area into a community garden, but the project was never taken forward.

Fruitfields:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Hillworth Park:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There is one piece of fitness equipment that failed last year and this is due to be replaced in the summer.

Massey Road 2:

This play area is open and is currently in a serviceable condition but offers limited play value with just two pieces of equipment.

Massey Road 3:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Newman Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Osmund Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Palmer Road:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding maintenance issues but over the last year the site has been a centre of young people to gather in the evening, resulting in anti-social behaviour.

Palmer Road2:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Quakers Walk1:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Quakers Walk2:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

Skate Park Green Lane:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

The Small Green:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. In the not-too-distant future, the safety surfacing will need to be replaced as it is starting to break up, no price has yet been obtained for this work.

White Horse Way:

This play area is open and is in a serviceable condition. There are no outstanding issues.

So, there you have it, maybe you know different. The Council goes on to say, the budget for playgrounds has been doubled to £40,000, but it will only cover ongoing repair cost and improvements rather than finance of new play areas.

Encourage your kids to look after what they’ve got. It only partially falls on the council, another major part is to be played by the residents too, to respect others. If you’re dog owners have some respect for parents, if you’re teenagers hanging out in the park, I know what’s it’s like, I’ve been there too; but try to remember what it was like when you were little, how much you enjoyed the playparks. Should you now prefer the odd spliff there after dark, all’s fair in love and war; but respect the area for the little ones too, by not creating a ruckus and drawing attention to yourselves by net curtain twitchers. Everyone, in my opinion, needs to allow some give and take; kids will be kids, and we were all one originally!


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