The Committee received a presentation and report from the Head of Property and Asset Management updating them on the Playground and Open Space Audit.
The Strategic Director explained to the Committee that they had commissioned this report as part of their remit within the Constitution in respect of grounds maintenance and upkeep. The Committee is also able to scrutinise the Housing and Neighbourhoods Committee reports in respect of facilities and assets in respect of play areas but any strategic element is the responsibility of the Housing and Neighbourhood Committee. Therefore any report in respect of parks and open spaces would be referred to the Housing and Neighbourhood Committee for a decision.
Councillor Wells referred to previous discussions in respect of these roles and responsibilities which also included selective licensing and asked the Committee to agree that he make representation to the Constitution Working Party as Chair of the Environment Committee to suggest that the Constitution is amended to correct this perceived anomaly.
The Head of Property and Asset Management introduced Rachel Harrison and Nick Fountain who had been responsible for compiling the information included in the audit.
The Head of Property and Asset Management summarised the report contents, noting that there are 97 play areas identified as part of this audit which are spread over the 17 Wards and 21 parishes of the Borough. In total 93 of these are considered playground sites are are covered in regular play area inspections. There are four sites which are not included in regular playground inspections but are included in the audit.
Not all of the play areas are in the ownership of the Borough Council but all are included in the repairs and maintenance schedules currently. The plan moving forward is to engage with the various stakeholders such as Housing Associations, Parishes and Community organisation to review how the spaces can be maintained and updated moving forwards. The action plan includes details of next steps in relation to finance and funding with these partners outside the Borough Council and to review the process and designation of Section 106 and Section 111 funding along with alternative ownership models.
Councillor Annison thanked the team for the comprehensive report and asked that members be provided with more detailed, information in respect of S106 and S111 monies to include how it is currently allocated and the options being explored.
Councillor P Carpenter recorded her thanks for this comprehensive document which is easy to understand and well laid out. She said that the last two years with the pandemic have taught us that we need parks and open spaces which are accessible to all. This work has been three years in the making and is extremely welcome and she looked forward to the implementation of the next steps.
The Committee discussed the issues experienced in the length of time it had taken in the past to get extensive repairs completed due to issues around the supply chain. They suggested that it would be beneficial to source sustainably built equipment from UK suppliers if this was possible. Also moving forward to have more non-mechanical play areas.
Councillor D Hammond asked that as part of the action plan moving forward a decision was made on the Jellico Road MUCA as this is an area of concern for residents. The Head of Property and Asset Management advised that this will be addressed in the next phase of work.
Councillor Waters-Bunn said she was pleased with the range and depth of the report with particular reference to accessibility moving forward, noting that it is not only the cost of any equipment which must be taken into account but also the method of access to it. She also asked that the allocation of S106 monies within each ward be circulated to members.
Councillor Talbot said that she was pleased to see the inclusion of outside Gyms and items suitable for older children under consideration and that moving away from mechanical play equipment is beneficial.
Councillor Robinson-Payne thanked the team for the comprehensive report.
The Committee proposed an amendment to recommendation 4, to read:
4. To carry forward the Environmental Services staffing budget under spend to the 2022-23 financial year to cover the Technical Officer role in property services working on the playground and open spaces review project.
Proposed: Councillor P Carpenter
Seconded: Councillor Waters-Bunn
- To note the information is being consolidated on Concerto
- To agree the quantity ans quality data provided in relation to play and open spaces.
- To adopt the action plan which identifies next steps
- To carry forward the Environmental Services staffing budget under spend to the 2022-23 financial year to cover the Technical Officer role in property services working on the playground and open spaces review project.