Play areas face mixed fortunes in review
WHAT you gain on the swings you'll lose on the roundabouts in play areas in mid Somerset.
Mendip's playgrounds are part of the local government finance see-saw, with some getting brand new equipment, and some losing playground status altogether.
The most popular play areas across the district are to be improved, following a decision by Mendip District Council to update its Play Strategy.
To release funding for improvements to the area's most popular playgrounds, low-use playgrounds will have their equipment removed and be re-designated as public open space.
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Before any play equipment is removed, Mendip says it will work with local community groups, parish and town councils and nearby residents over the re-designation of low use playgrounds to public open space.
The council will offer advice and support to those groups who may wish to maintain the playground or consider a different use for the area, for example, a community garden or boules pitch.
In areas where play equipment is removed, the subsequent savings on maintenance will allow funds to be targeted at the district's most popular playgrounds.
As part of the update of the Play Strategy, the council has also agreed to approach Somerset County Council to explore the possibility of temporary street closures to allow children to play safely, close to home, in areas where there is no space for a play facility.
Where this initiative has been trialled in other areas, such as Bristol, most roads have opted for a once a month closure.
It is hoped that the initiative will encourage children to play out in the street and increase their physical activity levels, while encouraging neighbours to meet up more regularly.
The council is responsible for approximately 60 playgrounds across the district. As low-use playgrounds are re-designated open space, funds will be allocated towards more popular playgrounds which, over time, will have their facilities improved.
Donna Nolan, corporate manager for governance, assets and public spaces, said: "The funding cuts from central government have seen the council having to re-focus its resources and do more with less.
"As a result, we have revisited the 2007 Play Strategy to review how best we can manage our existing stock of play areas and their ageing equipment.
"By re-designating some of Mendip's under-used play areas as public open space, we will be able to ensure funding goes towards those play areas which consistently prove to be the most popular, improving facilities and equipment."
Councillor John Parham, portfolio holder for governance, assets and public spaces, said: "Unfortunately, we simply don't have the funds we need to ensure that every play area in the district has up to date play equipment and is maintained to a standard that we would like.
"This review of the Play Strategy will see us using our limited resources to update and improve the most popular play areas in Mendip.
"With council funding continuing to be cut we are having to make tough decisions on how we allocate our resources.
"I feel the proposals in the updated Play Strategy are the right way forward and will benefit Mendip's youngsters through more modern and inspiring play areas."