Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Toddler play area and seating in £250,000 makeover

A NEW toddler play area, seating and pathways have been backed by councillors in the first

A NEW toddler play area, seating and pathways have been backed by councillors in the first phase of a £250,000 makeover at a Henley beauty spot.

The plans for Makins recreation ground, off Greys Road, were presented by Dr Carolyn Jenkins, landscape design officer at Reading Borough Council.

At a meeting on Friday last week, the council’s parks sub-committee also recommended to progress plans which didn’t include tennis courts for Freeman’s Meadow, but hopes to encourage more visitors to the area by enhancing it while keeping it a tranquil place.

Residents surrounding Freeman’s had called for it to remain a “quiet oasis”.

Dr Jenkins, who was appointed by the council to work on the project earlier this year, said play equipment in the southern corner of Makins would be expanded with a “football zone”, running east to west, also provided on the field.

Seating could be provided between the football area and planned new skatepark, where there are the best views. This would still leave open space between the “football zone” and play area.

A triangular path could be built around the boundary of the play equipment. This would also run around the boundary of the recreation ground with outdoor gym equipment — where money had already been set aside — scattered around the path or put in one place.

Dr Jenkins said the cost of the Makins project would be in the region of £250,000, but would be phased over three years. “You want to develop in your first year something that people want,” she said.

Equipment should then be provided for other age groups in year one, she added, followed by phased infrastructure development, and then new play equipment every year.

In year one she suggested:

• expanding the play area to its final size

• installing the new toddler play equipment

• creating the southern circle of the new pathway

• installing goals

• providing new seating and bins

• starting planting.

The play area could feature a “multi-unit” designed for climbing and sliding, while it could also include spring rides and a basket swing.

It would cost £22,000 for the play area, including safety surfacing, and £11,700 to fence it. Goal posts are estimated to cost £1,000, and seating £10,000.

Dr Jenkins also recommended a contingency fund of £5,400.

Future equipment she suggested in year two included the outdoor gym, a rope swing, and in the third year of the project further fencing and a trampoline.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith asked about the life expectancy of the equipment.

Dr Jenkins replied: “In one sense a lot of this stuff can last for decades and, in our experience, interest runs out before the equipment fails. We haven’t recommended anything where we have had problems. Normally this play equipment is designed to take a hammering.”

Ideas for Freeman’s Meadow which were backed by the committee include enhancing the play equipment, fencing, resurfacing the play area, dog bins, and a pathway at the back of Leicester Close.

Other suggestions included a wildflower meadow, picnic area and entrance improvements. There had been a suggestion of providing on-site parking to help increase visitor numbers.

Dr Jenkins told members: “How do you attract more people to go there? You may need to put an attraction in, something for people to do, and that’s where the idea of the tennis court came from.”

But members said there were tennis courts nearby at Rupert House School and Councillor Sarah Miller felt that no land should be lost for a car park on Freeman’s adding: “Lets’s not cover up any more greenery.”

The sub-committee recommendations will now go to the council’s recreation and amenities committee.

It is hoped some work could begin before the summer school holidays as the council is in the process of applying for grants.

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