This week Penarth Town Council has been reviewing how much provision it has for children’s play in the town.
Every three years the Welsh Government requires local authorities to undertake what’s called – in Cardiff Bay civil service jargon – a “Play Sufficiency Assessment ” . This week Penarth councillors have been asked to respond to a report being prepared by the Vale’s “Play Development Officer”.
The Mayor Cllr Rosemary Cook (Labour St Augustines) invited comments.
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Road) said what the forthcoming Vale document might overlook were areas like Penarth beach which – although pebbly and a bit muddy – he said, was “a wonderful play-resource for children”. He said the Kymin also provided play resources for children and children’s parties, the town’s community centres provided play facilities and part of Cosmeston Country Park also fell within the area.
The leader of the council Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) said the Mayor had a statutory duty to have a “play strategy” but ” no actual need to do too much beyond that” . Cllr Cuddy said Penarth Council could be “a bit more imaginative – looking holistically at what Penarth provides for children – and at what play is “.
Cllr Cuddy said there were three housing associations in Penarth where it might be possible to get a more “collaborative exercise” going – also involving the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) said ” I am aware that there are parks and other areas in Penarth which are perhaps under-maintained”. Cllr Thomas cited the example in his own ward of Wordsworth Park – which he described as being “fairly bleak” .
He thought that the deficiencies in such areas should be highlighted – urging the Vale Council to improve their maintenance . Other parks , he said, were “quite well maintained and well-used” – but in his ward a ” fine piece of play land is not attractive. That is a shame”.
Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) – who is also a Vale of Glamorgan Councillor -noted the constraints under which the Vale Council was operating and that play equipment was “exceedingly expensive”. “In the old-days”, Cllr Wilson said “surfaces could be concrete. Now you can’t do that anymore”. He accepted the points made by Cllrs Ernest, Cuddy and Thomas and agreed with the idea of looking at possible funding with housing associations.
Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines) said “The facilities may exist . It’s co-ordination and inspiration which sometimes is missing” . He felt there were not enough coordinators with the relevant skills and urged that some form of sponsorship be considered.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) said that perhaps “what the council should be doing is rather than looking a providing play facilities, is to look at the barriers to play”.
Cllr Roberts said cited what he called “the somewhat-controversial 20-mph limit across Penarth”. He said “ That would provide an opportunity for kids to play more safely outside in the streets – socialising “ . Cllr Roberts said there had once been “Play Streets – I don’t know what happened to them. A street would be closed down at certain times and for that period traffic was banned in order that kids could play”. Where there was “Section 106” money [paid by commercial developers for local facilities] some should be allocated for the provision of play facilities.
Cllr Roberts – who is also a twin-hatted Vale Councillor – was involved with Cllr Lis Burnett (also Labour St Augustines) in the controversy over the proposed installation of a 100 ft long concrete skateboard park at the Paget Terrace children’s play area- which ran into public opposition from local residents at a packed public meeting in 2014. (see http://tinyurl.com/mmv5wjb )
In an implicit criticism of local residents in his own ward, Cllr Roberts said “We attempted to upgrade the park on Paget Terrace. We were going to put some huge skatepark with millions of children with radios loud and other rubbish. But I’m afraid that once you get to the practicalities, nimbyism is important.“
He said ” The actual facilities there were very modest – they were no more than a scooter park”. He said the project had now been stopped and was being looked at again “because of the reaction, which I think is, somehow or other, completely wrong” .
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) was concerned about the deadline of February 12th to respond to the play assessment. Cllr Turner said one thing which had not been considered was the “users and their parents”.
Cllr Turner said it was all very well for councillors to talk about what play facilities could be provided – but said he had been “lobbied by a number of mothers” about the facilities in the Plymouth Ward . He said it would be a shame if the council responded to the Vale Council without having first talked to “at least some parents about what they think they should have”.
Pressing for prior consultation with residents, Cllr Turner said Penarth Council would be “unwise” to say “this is what we want”. He said parents should be asked for example “Do you want a play street – would you actually use it?” . Cllr Turner warned “We must not make assumptions about what the generation – or two generations – behind us want”.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts re-iterated that the council’s approach should be to “remove the barriers to play”.