Your Councillors


HERITAGE, CULTURE AND LEISURE COMMITTEE

31 October 2017

 

Maidstone Play Area Policy

 

Final Decision-Maker

Heritage, Culture and Leisure Committee

Lead Head of Service/Lead Director

Dawn Hudd, Head of Regeneration and Economic Development

Lead Officer and Report Author

Jason Taylor, Leisure Manager

Classification

Public

Wards affected

All

 

Executive Summary

 

This report is a supporting document to the Maidstone Parks and Open Spaces 10 Year Strategic Plan 2017 – 2027, which this Committee adopted on 4th July 2017.

 

It builds on the £1.8m investment on play areas improvements over the last two years which was based on a standard of most residents living within a 12 minute walk of a good quality play area.

 

This report describes how Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) will ensure that a quality environment continues to be provided for play and young people’s social interaction in the future within the current financial climate.

 

 

This report makes the following recommendations to this Committee:

1.   To agree to the implementation of a £200,000 Parish Play Area Grants Scheme over a two year period, which will support Parish Councils in improving strategically important play areas that they own.

2.   To agree that non-strategic play areas, belonging to MBC, will be retained as green space and that play equipment in these areas will not be replaced when it is beyond economical repair.

 

 

Timetable

Meeting

Date

Heritage Culture and Leisure Committee

31  October 2017



Maidstone Play Area Policy

 

1.      INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

 

1.1        This report is a supporting document to the Maidstone Parks and Open Spaces 10 Year Strategic Plan 2017 – 2027, which HCL Committee adopted on 4th July 2017.

 

1.2        This report describes how MBC will ensure that a quality environment continues to be provided for play and young people’s social interaction in a challenging budget setting.  It has been prepared in line with national guidance on play; it also links to the Maidstone Local Plan and the Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy.

 

1.3        The recommendations in this report support the £1.8 million of capital improvements that have already taken place over last two years which has seen 32 play areas replaced or improved in line with the 12 minute standard.  This investment was agreed by the Cabinet Member for Communities and Leisure Services in May 2015.

 

1.4        There are 120 play areas across Maidstone Borough, 73 of which are owned by MBC. The remainder are owned by other organisations including Parish Councils, Kent County Council and Housing Associations.

1.5        Following the quality scoring of all play areas across the borough in 2011, it was identified that it would take up to forty years to replace all of MBC’s play areas with the resources available at the time. Taking into account that the average useful life of a play area is 15-20 years, it was obvious that the situation was not sustainable and that the standard of play areas would continue to deteriorate. The pressure on council budgets has increased significantly since 2012 and the position is only likely to get harder in the future.

 

1.6        With this in mind a complete review of all of the play areas in the borough was carried out in 2012. This review looked not only at the standard of all play areas but also their distribution across the borough.

 

1.7        This review concluded that 51 out of 69 MBC play areas needed improvement, or would need work within 5 years to reach/maintain green or amber standard, as defined in the play scoring matrix. It also highlighted that there was no set standard for play provision across the borough and that there were some potential areas of over provision in the borough.

1.8        A number of options were considered and following consideration by scrutiny committee it was proposed that a borough wide strategic play provision standard, based on the ‘majority of residents being a maximum of 12 minutes’ walk from an amber or green play area’, should be progressed.  This has led to 32 of MBCs Strategic Play Areas being replaced or improved.

 

 

1.9        The identification of strategic play areas led to the implementation of a £1.8m Play Area Capital Improvement Programme, including a £200,000 allowance to fund a grant scheme to support Parish Councils who owned Play Areas which formed part of the borough wide Strategic Play Network.

1.10    The Play Area Capital Improvement works are now nearing completion and a summary of that project will be presented to HCL Committee in the near future.

 

2.           MAIDSTONE PLAY POLICY

 

2.1        This committee adopted the Maidstone Parks and Open Spaces 10 Year Strategic Plan 2017 – 2027 in July this year, which sets out a route map for the short, medium and longer term development of Maidstone’s parks and open spaces.

 

2.2        To ensure all residents have sufficient access to greenspace the Council has adopted open space quantity standards.   These indicate the minimum size for greenspace types and the area to be provided per thousand residents, as well as the maximum distance that any resident should have to travel to a greenspace.  The standards were devised to ensure that adequate greenspaces are provided on new housing developments; but they have also been applied across the rest of the borough to help ensure that all residents have access to all types of open space.

 

2.3        Through considering all these factors alongside the location and size of planned housing developments, those areas of the borough where there is currently a deficit or over-provision (or will be in future) have been identified. These standards also include standards for play, but provision for quantity is only part of the picture, the quality and type of provision is also important.

 

2.4        With this in mind the Council has looked at the volume of play provision for all age groups across the borough in order to raise the overall quality and standard of play area facilities, including areas aimed at teenagers. This standard of provision will also be set alongside key objectives and targets.

Play Area Classifications

2.5        It is important to understand the context within which play areas provide opportunities for local communities to explore parks and open spaces further. The Council’s play areas are ranked into the following three categories.

 

2.5.1   Destination Play Areas

 

These play areas are visited not only by the local community but by park users from outside the borough. They provide a much wider range of play activities to engage in, are located in heavily used open spaces and act as a brand for the Council.  Park users identify with these areas for a family day out and are supported by other facilities such as car parking, toilets, café/food facilities and good walking routes. Mote Park Main Play Area and Cobtree Manor Park Play Area are those which are ranked as destination Play Areas.

 

2.5.2   District Play Areas
 

These are larger locally placed play areas mainly used by their local communities and some passing visitors to the borough. They are characterised by a large number of play activities aimed at a wide age range and supported by a large footfall. Some of these areas also have other supporting facilities such as car parks, toilets and other sporting facilities (tennis courts, bowling greens and multi-use games areas). The play areas that are classified as District Play Areas are Clare Park, Parkwood, Penenden Heath, South Park, and Whatman Park

 

2.5.3   Local Neighbourhood Play Areas

These are play areas used by the immediate local community. They feature a limited range of dynamic play equipment such as slides, swings and climbing frames. These play areas are also found in local villages and parish areas. The majority of the 120 play areas across the borough are classed as Local Neighbourhood Play Areas, some examples are Shepway Green, Baring Heath, Albert Reed Gardens, Camden Street and Lime Trees at Staplehurst.

Strategically Important Play Areas owned by MBC

2.6        To understand the distribution of play area provision for different age ranges in terms of quality, a mapping exercise was carried out in 2013 to identify the distribution of the three different categories of play areas across the borough. This showed areas of over and under provision across different areas and which areas suffered from a lack of quality.

 

2.7        A maximum walking time of 12 minutes from home from one of the three categories of play area, was considered reasonable and within easy reach for all age groups, with the large majority of households in the borough being within this range. Physical barriers such as the River Medway, main roads and railways were taken into account in the mapping process.

 

2.7.1   In order to target resources where they can be most effective and ensure that the most used play areas are kept to a high standard a network of significant sites were designated as ‘Strategically Important Play Areas’ (SIPAs). This network of SIPA’s is based on the “majority of residents in the borough being within 12 minutes’ walk of a good quality play area”. The reason that this is the majority and not all residents, is that in the more remote rural areas it would not be possible to provide all residents with easy access to a play area, but the network does cover most towns and villages.

 

2.7.2   The map showing this network of SIPA’s can be seen in Appendix I.

 

2.7.3   There are 78 SIPA’s across the borough comprising of the three different categories. These SIPA’s have the following ownership: 41 MBC, 33 parish councils, 3 trusts and one Kent County Council. If there was more than one play area in a location, the one chosen as being strategically important was the one that was most centrally located, accessible to the most people, provided the best facilities and in the best condition.

 

2.7.4   The table below shows the list of all of the SIPA’s, where they are located and who they are maintained by. It also shows the play areas that were improved or replaces as part of the capital improvements carried out in the last 2 years.

ref no

Strategically Important Play Area Name

Servicing

Ward

Responsibility

Play Area Category

Improved 2016/17

1

Mote Park (Main)

Borough Wide

Shepway North

MBC

Destination

*

2

Cobtree Manor Park

Borough Wide

Boxley

Trust

Destination

 

3

Whatman

River Walk

Bridge

MBC

District

*

4

Penenden Heath Play Area

Borough Wide

East

MBC

District

*

5

Clare Park

Fant and Bridge

Fant

MBC

District

*

6

Park Wood Recreation Ground

Park Wood

Park Wood

MBC

District

 

7

South Park Play Area

East Tovil

High Street

MBC

District

*

8

Teston County Park

Teston

Barming

KCC

Local Neighbourhood

 

9

Adisham Drive

Allington North

Allington

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

10

Braunstone Drive

Allington North

Allington

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

11

Corben Close

Allington South

Allington

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

12

Giddyhorne Lane

Allington South

Allington

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

13

Midley Close

Allington North

Allington

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

14

Timber Tops Play Area

Lordswood

Boxley

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

15

Weavering Heath

Grove Green

Boxley

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

16

Cornwallis Park

Tonbridge Road

Bridge

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

17

Grovewood Drive North

Grove Green

Detling & Thurnham

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

18

Foxden Drive

Downswood

Downswood & Otham

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

19

Mallards Way

Downswood

Downswood & Otham

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

20

Ashurst Road

Vinters Park

East

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

21

Camden Street

Town Centre 

East

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

22

Foley Park

Town Centre North

East

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

23

Upper Fulling Pits

Vinters Park

East

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

24

Gatland Lane

Barming and Fant

Fant

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

25

Barming Heath

Heath and Barming

Heath

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

26

Nettlestead Village Hall

Nettlestead

Marden & Yalding

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

27

Arundel Street

Town Centre

North

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

28

Brookbank

Sandling

North

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

29

Chillington Street

Town Centre

North

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

30

Dickens Road

Ringlestone

North

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

31

St Francis Close

Penenden Heath

North

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

32

Lockham Farm Avenue

Park Wood

Park Wood

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

33

Queen Elizabeth Square

Park Wood

Park Wood

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

34

Stratford Drive

Park Wood

Park Wood

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

35

Mote Park (Natural Play)

Borough Wide

Shepway North

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

36

School Lane (Mote Park)

Shepway

Shepway North

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

37

Shepway Green

Shepway

Shepway North

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

38

Senacre Square

Senacre

Shepway South

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

39

Stevenswood

Shepway

Shepway South

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

40

Mangravet Recreation Ground

Mangravet

South

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

41

Bridge Mill Way

West Tovil

South

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

42

Albert Reed Gardens

Tovil Green

South

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

 

43

Lime Trees

Staplehurst

Staplehurst

MBC

Local Neighbourhood

*

44

South Street

Barming

Barming

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

45

Teston Village Green

Teston

Barming

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

46

Boughton Monchelsea Village Hall

Boughton Monchelsea

Boughton Monchelsea & Chart Sutton

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

47

Chart Sutton Play Area

Chart Sutton

Boughton Monchelsea & Chart Sutton

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

48

Bredhurst Village Hall Play Area

Bredhurst

Boxley

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

49

Cornwallis Avenue

Linton

Coxheath & Hunton

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

50

Coxheath Village Hall Play Area

Coxheath

Coxheath & Hunton

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

51

East Farleigh Play Area

East Farleigh

Coxheath & Hunton

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

52

Gallants Lane

Coxheath

Coxheath & Hunton

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

53

Hunton Play Area

Hunton

Coxheath & Hunton

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

54

West Farleigh Play Area

West Farleigh

Coxheath & Hunton

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

55

Stoneacre Play Area

Otham

Downswood & Otham

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

56

Glebe Field Play Area

Harrietsham

Harrietsham & Lenham

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

57

Ham Lane Play Area

Lenham

Harrietsham & Lenham

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

58

William Pit Youth Area

Lenham

Harrietsham & Lenham

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

59

Days Green Play Area

Headcorn

Headcorn

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

60

East Sutton Play Area

East Sutton

Headcorn

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

61

Kingswood Village Hall Play Area

Kingswood

Headcorn

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

62

Ulcombe Play Area

Ulcombe

Headcorn

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

63

Leeds Play Area

Leeds

Leeds

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

64

King George V Play Area

Loose

Loose

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

65

Collier Street Play Area

Collier Street

Marden & Yalding

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

66

Laddingford Play Area

Laddingford

Marden & Yalding

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

67

Marden Playing Fields

Marden

Marden & Yalding

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

68

School Villas, Nettlestead

Nettlestead

Marden & Yalding

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

69

The Kintons

Yalding

Marden & Yalding

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

70

Cardwell Play Area

Hollingbourne

North Downs

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

71

Stockbury Play Area

Stockbury

North Downs

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

72

Wormshill Play Area

Wormshill

North Downs

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

73

Surrenden Road Play Area

Staplehurst

Staplehurst

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

74

Langley Play Area

Langley

Sutton Valence & Langley

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

75

Sutton Valence Village Hall Play Area

Sutton Valence

Sutton Valence & Langley

Parish

Local Neighbourhood

 

76

Jubilee Playing Field

Staplehurst

Staplehurst

Parish 

Local Neighbourhood

 

77

Church Landway

Bearsted

Bearsted

Trust

Local Neighbourhood

 

78

Collis Millennium Green

Town Centre South

High Street

Trust

Local Neighbourhood

 


2.9    Strategically Important Play Areas Owned by Parish Councils

 

2.9.1   The 33 Parish owned play areas form an important part of the SIPA network providing play opportunities to residents in rural areas not covered by MBC provision.  These areas also need to be maintained to an acceptable standard by the Parish Councils and as such are included when borough wide scoring of play areas is carried out.

 

2.9.2   To support the SIPA network outside the scope of MBC play areas £200,000 was made available as part of the £1.8m Play Area Improvements Programme for a Parish Play Area Grants Scheme over a two year period.

 

2.9.3   The grant will be:

·           Available to all parish councils that have a SIPA.

·           To a maximum of £10,000 per parish council, unless a compelling case can be made for a higher amount.

·           Used only for capital improvements.

·           Ideally match funded by the parish council or from other sources.

 

2.9.4   An application and scoring process will be set up and managed by MBC. If the grant scheme is approved then information regarding the process will be sent to all parish councils.  The Kent Association of Local Councils will be consulted on the application and award process.

2.9.5   If this committee approve the Parish SIPA Grant Scheme it will be implemented from April 2018 and all schemes must be completed by the end of March 2020.

Non-Strategically Important Play Areas

2.9.6   The play areas not considered to be part of the network of SIPA’s are referred to as Non-Strategic Play Areas (NSPA).

2.9.7   Those MBC Play Areas considered NSPA, of which there are 20, will not in  future be maintained or refurbished using MBC revenue or capital resources. The equipment in these play areas will be decommissioned over a period of time as it comes to the end of its useful life.

2.9.8   These play areas may however be refurbished if funding is available from other sources such as Section 106 Developer Contributions.

2.9.9   NSIPA’s will be offered to the Parish Councils, Housing Trusts and other Community Groups to take over, and if no interested parties come forward, the play equipment will be removed when it is no longer serviceable and the land retained as green space.

2.9.10         There will be no financial resources available to support the transfer of these NSIPA’s but MBC will be able to provide information on maintenance requirements, funding available,  legislation relating to public play areas as well as assistance with play area inspections.

 

The table below shows all of NSIPA’s belonging to MBC.

ref No.

MBC Owned Non - Startegic Play Area

Servicing

Ward

Play Area Category

1

Woolley Road

 Senacre

Shepway South

Local Neighbourhood

2

Westmorland Close

Shepway South

Shepway South

Local Neighbourhood

3

Juniper Close

Allington

Allington

Local Neighbourhood

4

Franklin Drive

Grove Green

Boxley

Local Neighbourhood

5

Reinden Grove, Downswood

Downswood

Downswood

Local Neighbourhood

6

Riverhead Close

Allington

Allington

Local Neighbourhood

7

Somerset Road

Shepway

Sheepway North

Local Neighbourhood

8

Whitebeam Drive

Coxheath

Coxheath and Hunton

Local Neighbourhood

9

Keswick Drive

Allington

Allington

Local Neighbourhood

10

Cockpits

Marden

Marden and Yalding

Local Neighbourhood

11

Perverel Drive

Grove Green

Detling and Thurnham

Local Neighbourhood

12

Crownfields

Grove Green

Detling and Thurnham

Local Neighbourhood

13

Fairhurst Drive

Dean Street

Coxheath and Hunton

Local Neighbourhood

14

Bedgebury Cl

Vinters Park

East

Local Neighbourhood

15

Roseholme

Fant

Fant

Local Neighbourhood

16

Fountain Park

South

South

Local Neighbourhood

17

James Street

Town Centre

East

Local Neighbourhood

18

Shaw Close

Penenden Heath

East

Local Neighbourhood

19

Freshlands Road

Queens Rd

Heath

Local Neighbourhood

20

Shepherds Gate Drive

 Grove Gn

Boxley

Local Neighbourhood

 

Measuring Success

2.10     Following the completion of the Play Area Improvement Programme which targets improvements to MBC SIPA’s, all play areas in the borough will be rescored against the same criteria used in 2011. This will enable an assessment to be made of the then current condition of all play areas across the borough. This will enable future resources to be targeted going forward in the areas where they will have the biggest impact.

Future Considerations

2.11     Following the completion of the Play Area Improvement Programme which will be completed shortly, all MBC play areas will be in a good condition. However it is important that we remember that these play areas will need replacing in the future and that financial provision is made for this.

2.12    Most play areas will last for up to 20 years; based on the recent improvement project the average cost to replace each play area is around £40,000. Bearing in mind that this report proposes that MBC retain 42 Strategic Play areas, the ongoing continued cost to replace these factoring in deterioration will be in the region of £1,680,000, at current prices over the next 20 years. It is likely that no play areas will need replacing within the next 5 years so capital replacement budgets in the region of £100,000 per year will have to be put in place to reflect this from 2022.

 

 

3            AVAILABLE OPTIONS

 

3.1        Funding Parish Play Areas

 

The implementation of a £200k Parish Play Area Grants Scheme over a two year period will contribute towards Parish Councils improving the SIPA’s that they own. This in turn will ensure that the overall quality of the SIPA’s across the borough is maintained.

 

Alternatively, the committee could decide not to fund work in SIPA’s owned by Parish Councils and the Parish Councils could continue to wholly fund their SIPA’s.

 

3.2        Non-strategic play areas owned by MBC

 

Agree that any non-strategic play areas belonging to MBC will be retained as green space and play equipment will not be replaced when it is beyond economical repair.  It was inherent in the allocation of funding to strategic play areas that replacement of equipment in non-strategic play areas would not be funded.

 

 

4            PREFERRED OPTION AND REASONS FOR RECOMMENDATIONS

 

4.1    To implement a £200k Parish Play Area Grants Scheme over a two year period. This will support Parish Councils in improving strategically important play areas that they own; this will enable and ensure that the quality of the SIPA’s across the borough is maintained.

 

4.2    That equipment in any non-strategic play areas belonging to MBC will not be replaced when it is beyond economical repair, the equipment will be removed and the area retained as green space. With the decreasing resources available it is not possible to continue to maintain play areas which do not form part of the strategic network across the borough. It is better to have fewer good quality play areas that are accessible to most residents, than many poor quality play areas.

 

 

5            RISK

5.1       Unless MBC agree that any non-strategic play area equipment belonging to them will not be replaced when it is beyond economical repair each one will have to be dealt with on an individual basis which will create unnecessary work and time delays and result in the same outcome due to budget constraints.

 

5.2       There is a risk of injury to users if play area equipment is not kept in good condition or left open beyond its useful life. This in turn represents a reputational risk to the Council.

 

 

6            CONSULTATION RESULTS AND PREVIOUS COMMITTEE FEEDBACK

 

6.1        Following the 2012 Play Review and prior to the £1.8 million of capital improvement works taking place, an extensive consultation was carried out.

6.2        This was advertised at all play areas and online. All parish and ward councillors were contacted as were community groups.

6.3        As a result of the consultation a number questions were raised regarding the choice of the particular SIPA’s over other play area, and the walking distance from particular play areas. All of these were reviewed but the only adjustment that was made was that it was suggested that Peverel Drive Play Area be retained as a non-strategic play area. The equipment at this site has since been replaced using a S106 developer contribution.

6.4        A summary of the results of this consultation can be seen at  http://www.maidstone.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/54782/Play-Area-Strategy-Consultation-Results.pdf

 

 

7            NEXT STEPS: COMMUNICATION AND IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DECISION

 

7.1        Following committee’s approval of the Parish Play Area Grant Scheme, the relevant parishes and the Kent Association of Local Councils will be contacted with details of the Parish Play Area Grant Scheme.

 

7.2        Officers will produce a simple guide and application process for the Parish Play Area Grant Scheme.

 

7.3        On final completion of the Play Area Improvement Programme all play areas in the borough will be rescored on the same basis as in 2011.

 

 

8         CROSS-CUTTING ISSUES AND IMPLICATIONS

 

Issue

Implications

Sign-off

Impact on Corporate Priorities

Providing a Safe and Clean Environment

Head of Regeneration & Economic Development.

Risk Management

The risks associated with this proposal, including the risks if the Council does not act as recommended, have been considered in line with the Council’s Risk Management Framework. We are satisfied that the risks associated are within the Council’s risk appetite and will be managed as per the Policy.

Head of Regeneration & Economic Development.

Financial

This project is funded in the current capital programme.

Section 151 Officer & Finance Team

Staffing

There will be no staffing implications.

Head of Environment & Street Scene.

Legal

The provision of play areas is not a statutory function, however they contribute to the wider community.  Compliance with this policy will assist the Council in ensuring those play areas in commission are of a satisfactory standard which is essential as equipment which is not fit for purpose could be a contributory factor to injuries occurring which may then result in an increase in insurance claims being made against the Council.

Interim Deputy Head of Legal Partnership

Equalities

Having an agreed standard will ensure that all residents have access to good quality play areas.

Head of Regeneration & Economic Development.

Crime and Disorder

No implications.

 

 

9         REPORT APPENDICES

 

The following documents are to be published with this report and form part of the report:

·         Appendix I: Map showing the proposed network of Strategically Important Play Areas

 

 

10      BACKGROUND PAPERS

 

The results of the play area consultation carried out prior to the capital works taking place can be seen at:

http://www.maidstone.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/54782/Play-Area-Strategy-Consultation-Results.pdf

 

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