Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Discussing the state of St Johns Way play area

Comment from Redcastle resident on Facebook re: the state of the St Johns Way play area: "

"Took my little'un to the park on Redcastle estate today... Disgraceful excuse of a play area. Instead of spending money on silly statues of tedious TV show characters, that moolah would be better spend on giving the kids of that estate something decent to use! Disappointed! That was my old stomping ground as a kid and it used to be ace!"

Follow-up comments: "They do nothing for the kids and they wonder why !!"

Other comment: "They could always use the expensive skate park near boots"

and... "We had one park on Admirals estate at the end of Ramsey Close, which closed years ago and was supposedly being reinstated, but nothing has happened. Would rather have had that than the water feature outside Boots!!!!"

and "just be glad you dont live on the ladies estate which once had 12 parks all dotted around the estate all but 1 taken were taken away, which is usually littered with broken bottles or 

and... "The slippery steps, awful benches and men's urinals that cost £600,000+ that were part of moving Thetford forward supposedly!!!! And don't forget the clock.
Abbey Farm estate used to have several parks back in the day, but as always, then as well as now, an incompetent council that's nowhere near Thetford has always thought they know what's best for Thetford, rather than the people who live here!"

My response;

 Hi folks, thanks for the tag Gina. I don't disagree with what Paul said in his original post - the St Johns Way play area is a disgrace, that's why we've been working to address it. This play area is one of 8 owned by Breckland Council (the other 7 being Fairfields, Elm Road, Pine Close, Edinburgh Way, Guildford Way, Bergamont Close & Harriet Martineau). Breckland has long neglected these play areas and they have all become very run down - in fact, calling them play areas is a bit much for some of them! Breckland want to transfer these play areas to Thetford Town Council so that the Town Council can pick up the cost of improving them and then ongoing running costs. Obviously the Town Council is very reluctant to do this as it would cost a lot of money - the Town does not have much money, Breckland is a much bigger authority and in most areas the District Councils pick up the cost of things such as play areas. Breckland have already offloaded public toilets to the Town Council and these cost approx £50,000 a year to run (Breckland's share of the Council Tax didn't go down when this occur, but the Towns share had to increase) - the same will happen with play areas. At some point soon, i.e. before the end of this year I would imagine, the Town Council will have to decide one way or another whether or not it will take on the 8 play areas. The Town Council has been running a consultation on play areas - partly online viaThetford Play Areas but also through meetings and there was an article in the About Thetford magazine. All of this has been led by the Town Councils Amenities Committee which is Chaired by the excellent Corinne Fulford. Running alongside this consultation, many local groups have been campaigning to improve play areas - the Redcastle Action Group (RAGs) is probably the best example. They have made sorting out the St Johns Way play area their top priority and have been raising funds themselves to contribute to a new play areas - I believe they have over £1,000 so far! (mainly thanks to Shirley HurrDonna Donz WarnockBarbara Davies and others) when you apply to the Lottery for funding etc. it is far more likely that you will be successful if you can demonstrate that the local community support the project and are prepared to contribute a bit towards it, even if only 10% of the total cost. Just to clear a couple of things up - the Captain Mainwaring statue was paid for by voluntary fundraising, not a penny of 'Council money' - I'm not the biggest Dad's Army fan but the link with Dad's Army brings in a LOT of money to Thetford through tourists and the statue helps with that. I'm also not the biggest fan of the Kings Street Square development (in fact it has been a total disaster), but, it used money from Moving Thetford Forward that could only be spent on that sort of thing, so again, it couldn't have been spent on play areas (although it could have been spent on regeneration of our estates but that's a whole different argument). Our play areas have suffered because of Breckland Council choosing not to invest in them and because children and young people are not a priority for either Brecklnad or the Town Council historically, so money is not spent on them in any great measure....

So... the state of the play areas is well known, Councillors are aware and trying to sort it out (albeit slowly as the process is difficult), and there is an opportunity to make these play areas improve quicker, and make it even better, if the local community get involved and support RAGs with their fundraising efforts - so if you can do anything to help, please get in touch with your local residents group (I can supply contact details if necessary)

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