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Investing in Play – three new play areas part of £1.1m investment

Published: 08/10/2021

Three play areas in the borough are going to benefit from a £1.1 million council investment, following Cabinet approval last week (Thursday 30 September).

Rylands Road, Bybrook; Central Park, Bluebell Road, Park Farm; and Spearpoint Recreation Ground, Kennington, will all be upgraded, benefiting over 4,600 households living within walking distance of these play areas.

Play areas have a role in building healthy neighbourhoods contributing to the physical, mental and emotional well-being of local people. Without access to these spaces the quality of life and wellbeing of residents is reduced so it is vital that we continue to ensure our play facilities are accessible, fun, eco-friendly, durable and low maintenance.

A capital Play Regeneration Programme has been agreed alongside a Repairs and Renewals Programme to safeguard appropriate play spaces and facilitate opportunities for ongoing improvement.

Cllr Matthew Forest, portfolio holder for culture, tourism and leisure, said: “This investment will provide much needed and urgent improvements to aging equipment.

“This will greatly benefit these communities, encouraging children of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to learn and exercise as they play and in so doing contribute to our agenda of healthy and sustainable communities.”

To further safeguard play spaces owned by the council, an enhanced Repairs and Renewal programme is proposed that includes £200,000 in 2022/23 and £100,000 per annum for refurbishment and maintenance of existing play, teen and outdoor gym facilities.

Cllr Bill Barrett, Portfolio Holder for environment and land management: “I wholeheartedly welcome this initiative, particularly the support for ongoing repairs and renewal investment which will better enable Aspire to maintain and improve play areas across the borough”.

The Council has been supporting the refurbishment and maintenance of play areas using a mix of funding resources including council budget, Section 106 contributions from developers and contribution from the Housing Revenue Account.

Successful play refurbishments have taken place where they provide truly accessible, safe spaces in open spaces on well used, well-connected footfall routes, with free to use facilities across all age groups.

As we emerge from the pandemic, now is a crucial time to invest in aging equipment and improve wider access to free to use play and outdoor gym facilities that encourages more daily physical activity for all ages.

Ashford Borough Council owns 55 play areas across the borough with 54 managed and maintained by Aspire Landscape Management and one managed through a lease agreement with a parish council.

The Play Regeneration Programme of £1.1m focuses on three key sites where the play provision is particularly in poor condition and requires major refurbishment.

Working with the local community

Over the last 3 years residents living near to Rylands Road Play Area and Central Park have set up their own community constituted groups to support local fund raising efforts to improve these play areas.

Through a range of events and securing funding from Kingsnorth Parish Council, the group campaigning for Central Park play area have successfully funded the supply and installation of three small items of new play equipment with associated safety surfacing totalling circa £12,000 with Aspire contributing another £3,000 from their unscheduled works budget. These new items will be repositioned to compliment the new scheme.

At Rylands Road Play Area, the community has raised a total of just over £25,000 towards the area, through a combination of funders providing grants (Kennington Community Council, Ashford Leisure Trust and Tesco bags for life scheme) and events.

These funds are confirmed for providing the outdoor gym element of the Rylands Road scheme and as there are conditions to spend the funds in a specified time the outdoor gym will be brought forward as the first item to be completed as part of the overall programme

Consultation and design

Following Cabinet approval the next step include preparing and delivery of consultation with stakeholders and ward members to collate information to feed into the design specification stage and preparing the planning application documents for Spearpoint and Central Park, Park Farm with works expected to end by school summer holidays 2022.