On 10th October Keith attended the Chelmsford Cabinet to follow up a question he asked at the previous meeting. His questions and comments are set out below with some of the answers given by Cllr. Moore (blue) and our comments (red):
“At the last Cabinet meeting I asked for information about the Play Area in Compass Gardens, SWF. My question was not answered, so I would like to ask it again. How much extra land was incorporated into the Compass Gardens play area when it was remodelled, since we established at the last meeting the town had lost nearly 1000 square metres of play area at Saltcoats Park?” He also pointed out that comparing old and recent satellite imagery the play area at Compass Gardens was actually smaller than previously.
Cllr. Moore said that the area lost was less than 952 square metres since a proportion of that was grass verge and similarly there was a large quantity of grass verge in the old Compass Gardens play area.
We are concerned that the grassed areas within the boundaries of both play areas are treated as valueless. Certainly the grassed area in the Saltcoats Park play space contained some small hillocks that the toddlers enjoyed running up and down.
“Also, Councillor Moore used a document from 2012 to base the provision of play and other facilities at Chelmsford's SWF parks. Does the councillor agree with me that it is time to come up with some new ideas for our parks? This is now the 2nd LibDem administration since the Tories adopted this plan and now SWF and Chelmsford have both got adopted plans in place which aspire to greater things. Losing play space to general parkland is not an upgrade.”
Cllr. Moore said that the 2012 plan is still active and that the idea of integrating different age groups into neighbourhood play areas is one they approve of.
It is worrying that this view flies in the face of the fact that our very young children are having to share a play space with secondary school youths who are dashing about with little attention to other users.
“While I'm sure we will be pointed to future CIL money from the development north of the Burnham Road to fund new facilities, this won't arrive for some years – the developers haven't even begun work. Is it not right to use some of the district's capital budget to enhance our park facilities now? Currently this administration has allocated less than 1% of the non-earmarked capital money to projects in SWF which has nearly 10% of the district's population.”
Cllr. Moore didn't answer this directly but did say they were exploring possible grant money for park improvements.
“I would argue that a new toddlers' play space adjacent to the play area in Compass Gardens is one project the Council should be moving forward on. There are others, and I would invite Councillor Moore and her officers to ask our residents what facilities they actually want – something I did at the start of this year.”
Cllr. Moore referenced the consultation carried out to choose the design of the new play area as residents being involved. She offered a meeting at Compass Gardens as a way forward.
The concern of our party is that this 'consultation' was simply to choose between a handful of similar options and did not include anything about the loss of the toddlers' play area or whether residents wanted a neighbourhood play space rather than our favoured two adjacent spaces (0-3 toddlers' area and 3-12 children's space). We will be arranging a meeting to discuss what might be possible and we'll keep you posted.
A recording of the meeting can be found at: Chelmsford Cabinet.