Issue details

Play Equipment Capital Replacement Programme

Bath and North East Somerset Council provides 60 formal play grounds across the district which create opportunities for children to play outdoors, gain a sense of place and become embedded into their neighbourhoods; at the same time improving their physical and social development, and creating an understanding and empathy with nature and other people.
There is an increasing recognition of the need to tackle obesity and support mental health and wellbeing in the district and parks provide a universal and freely accessible place where people can relax, be active and get some fresh air. Levels of child obesity in B&NES are better than England. However 7.8% of children in reception year at school and 12.9% of children in Year 6 are obese. B&NES/NHS public health practitioners tell us 'we know that poorer health often starts in infancy and childhood, so providing as many protective factors in childhood as possible in poorer areas (such as good play opportunities in playgrounds and opportunities for children to interact socially) is hugely important'. Therefore, for many residents, going to play in a park is the introduction to a lifetime relationship with being active in the outdoors and we'd like to improve the stimulation and attraction to encourage this.
Ongoing investment is needed to replace play equipment as it reaches its end of life and/or becomes too costly to keep repairing. This ensures that the Council continues to provide safe and good quality public spaces for residents and meets it legal responsibilities to ensure that play areas are safe to use. The service has reviewed its fixed play areas (financially, and against a play/development value) and from this we have found that we have a play offer that is too narrow and isn't always good value for money. By converting 8-10 play areas from fixed conventional play equipment to what are commonly called 'natural play' opportunities, the Council will reduce its over-reliance on expensive to maintain equipment. These new sites will be less of a risk liability and will be cheaper to maintain.
In addition to the 8-10 sites that we wish to re-purpose, the Parks Service has a further fifty that will continue to require a rolling programme of asset replacement. This annual replacement programme is informed by a comprehensive asset register for play equipment with projected life expectancies for all of its play assets. The condition of all pieces of play equipment are assessed through weekly inspections and this information informs the rolling programme of replacements as equipment reaches its end of life
The rolling programme of replacements has identified eight locations where there is a need to replace play equipment in 2019-20. In addition to the need to replace end-of-life play equipment there is an outstanding issue with entrance gates at a number of play areas across the district. All remaining play areas need to have self-closing gates to protect the children inside them and to keep dogs out and gates need to be carefully designed to ensure that they do not contain ‘finger traps’ which pose a safety risk to children. B&NES replaced play area gates at its most frequently used play areas in 2017/18 and it was always envisaged that the remaining locations would see their gates replaced in a second round of funding. Unfortunately there was no follow-up project and since then the Parks team have continued to receive complaints from parks’ users about dog faeces in play areas, which is a health and reputational risk to the Council. This Officer’s Delegated Decision therefore includes a sum for the replacement of play area gates at nine locations across the district.

Decision type: Non-key

Decision status: Approved

Notice of proposed decision first published: 02/12/2019

Decision due: 2 Dec 2019 by Corporate Director (Place)

Contact: Paul Pearce, Technical Support & Projects Officer Email: Email: Tel: 01225 396879.