Tuesday, 22 January 2019

£60,000 revamp for play area ‘that’s hardly used’

Freemans Meadow

Freemans Meadow

REFURBISHING a play area in Henley could be a waste of money as it isn’t used enough, claims a town councillor.

Lorraine Hillier spoke out as the council’s finance, strategy and management committee agreed to spend £60,000 on new surfacing and equipment at the facility in Freemans Meadows, off Fair Mile.

The new wet pour surface, which will replace the current wood chips, will cost about £50,000 while the rest of the money will go on new swings and a slide as well as fencing and seating.

The existing swings, which are 24 years old, are out of action as the seats were damaged and the replacements were not compatible with the old swing set frame.

They also do not comply with current safety regulations, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. The swings are the most popular piece of equipment in the play area, according to residents who responded to a questionnaire sent out by the Friends of Freemans Meadow in January.

Councillor Jane Smewing said the new surface was “quite expensive” but it would be more durable than the wood chips, which got stuck in the equipment.

She said: “At the moment we spend £3,000 per year replenishing the wood chips and we will have this surface guaranteed for a lot longer.”

Councillor Laurence Plant, who is a member of the council’s open and green spaces sub-committee, which decided what should be included in the refit, said: “At the moment the flooring is hindering the mechanisms and it doesn’t cater for the younger age range.

“The equipment we want to put in would cater to a larger range of ages. Around the edge of the area there is going to be planting schemes to add a sensory aspect to it.”

But Councillor Hillier said: “I question the sense of spending that amount of money on upgrading the play area. I just feel that it won’t get used.

“I remember when we upgraded it before and it was never used.

“I’m all for treating the parks the same but what suits one area doesn’t suit another. At the height of summer for a bit there was absolutely nobody there.

“I’d like to see something there with a bit of imagination. It’s an opportunity to be a bit more creative, not to just put another play area in.”

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “It’s a modest spend and we have spent money on Mill Meadows and Makins recreation ground.”

Councillor Will Hamilton added: “Freemans Meadow is as important as Mill and Marsh Meadows and Makins.

“The community has done a lot of work and it’s right that we reward them by putting those swings in.”

Four companies have quoted between £7,665 and £11,273 to replace the swings and resurface the area around them.

Councillor Kellie Hinton, who chairs the committee, said this wouldn’t be much more than the £6,000 needed to refurbish the current swings.

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