Firstly apologies to all the residents who got in touch back in late May/early June to ask about the new Coppermill play area. The whole site was strewn with rubbish, while work on finishing it had ground to a halt. Thats before mentioning the completely mishandled consultation process.
We got in touch with all 3 High Street Councillors to ask the following:
1. When is work on the park due to restart and more importantly be completed?
2. What plans are in place for the upkeep of the new play area (bins, maintenance, regular cleaning)?
3. Why was consultation so badly publicised, brief, and carried out when the only contact available was on holiday leave? It’s staggering that dozens of parents at the school that backs onto the park were not even consulted or made aware of the plans via a poster or a notice at the school. BAG as a residents group for the area was also not informed! Unsurprisingly only 2 responses were received!
Only Claire Coghill replied (so thanks to her for that):
Here’s what she had to say, as well as responses from relevant council officers in quotes:
“I can confirm that the new play equipment at Coppermill Park has been inspected by the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) and they have confirmed that the play area and the equipment is safe to use. The park would not have been opened unless this inspection had been made and was satisfactory.
“The funding for the play area came from the former Government Department for Schools and Families (DCSF). Unfortunately there was no allowance in the budget for benches, bins, cycle racks etc. Although there is insufficient funds in the Green Space budget to purchase any benches or cycle racks at present I will arrange for bins to be purchased and installed.”
Completion of works
“The new play area is virtually finished. The contractor that built the park is due to return this week [w/c 21 June] to install some more topsoil and grass seed on the bare areas.
“Frustratingly the project took far longer than anticipated. The delays were caused by inclement weather and a national shortage of the rubber grass matting.”
“Kier Street Services are responsible for maintaining the park and keeping it clean. Kier should check the park daily and it should be cleaned up to 3 times per week.
“The aim of the new play area is to promote natural play (Play England specified this as part of the funding criteria for the new play area) and as such much of the grass around the perimeter of the park will be allowed to grow to create a more natural feel to the play area.
“The grass around the play equipment will be kept at a height of no more than 12cm and will be cut as and when it reaches this height.”
On the consultation specific queries:
6. Ensure that community engagement / communications officers are aware of your concerns regarding the consultation and requested to provide a rationale for this approach which we will be able to scrutinise / adapt
7. Advise community engagement / communications officers on ‘groundrules’ for contacting BAG as standard when consultations take place within the BAG area.
“Although we did not undertake direct consultation with residents who live near Coppermill Park regarding the Play Builder funded play equipment we did employ a Social Research company to undertake consultation with young people to consult their views about play equipment.
“In addition to the above we also consulted with ‘Waltham Forest Parents Forum’ which is made up of parents of children with disabilities.
“We undertook some consultation in December 2009 (please see ‘Waltham Forest News’ issue dated 14/12/09 (page 9) asking people to vote for their favourite designs (please see following link for the designs).
“We are very aware that consultation with local residents and keeping them informed about what is happening is important. Unfortunately given the volume of work that was involved with year 1 of the Play Builder Programme and the extremely tight time scales to ensure funding was not lost there wasn’t time to formally consult directly with local residents.
“While we are aware of the shortcomings of the first year consultation we are confident that the second year Play Builder (we will be finding 11 more sites to install play equipment) consultation will ensure that local communities are more fully engaged.
“In the second phase of Play Builder Programme (April 2010 – March 2011) we will be employing a social research company to recruit some families from across the Borough to consult with regarding park and play area development.”
I have requested a meeting with the head of community engagment and this is being coordinated. If BAG has thoughts on how it would like to be consulted / how it can be consulted most effectively, let me know and I will request that the community engagement team treat this as best practice.