Let Battle Commence……………………….Part 1

They say, it is important to be passionate about things and it is our passion that drives us forward. I have lacked passion lately, but my local Town Council have stirred shall one say a hornet’s nest, or poked the belly of a sleeping dragon.

My wife and I have been saying for years that our town needs a new large play are. Plenty of smaller villages have better parks than our town of over 15,000 residents. We also only have one park that is easily accessible via wheelchair users such as myself and this aimed at younger children (my LG won’t be that little for long). So when it was announced £100,000 had been budgeted for a new play area we couldn’t have been happier. Several designs were drawn up and we could vote on our favourite ones. Each design had a selection of wheelchair users on the illustrations and I was really excited that at last there was going to be some choice for me with regards to the park that I take my LG too, and when she wants to play with her friends and cousins as she gets older.

The consultation period ended and everyone in the town was eagerly awaiting the results, which design would be picked, when would work start, etc (we are a quiet rural market town so we are easily excited). The news was widely covered in the local press and there has been a number of newspaper articles printed throughout the whole process.

Firstly during the planning stage http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/mobile/news/what_do_you_think_wymondham_council_unveils_six_possible_layouts_for_kett_s_park_1_3930659#

Then we have a website run by some local residents who keep us posted on events at council meetings and other important decisions that may be being made that could affect us, this is http://wymondhamstuff.co.uk/

Initially the drawings had the play equipment located next to the existing hall which is used throughout the week for various clubs and private hire. Meaning I could go from the disabled bay along the existing path that runs around the outside of the building right to the play area. No problem, brilliant access jobs a winner. Or so I thought.

Buried in an article on the Wymondham Stuff webpage dated 19th March 2015 (which at the time was dominated by attempts to saving the local football team from council charges that would have forced them into folding) was this little excerpt,

The Kett’s Park playscape was rubber-stamped at last night’s meeting, though not unanimously, following the decision to relocate the equipment away from the community centre building to a site beyond the tennis courts and near the overflow car park.

The Leisure and Environment committee, which met on March 19, had recommended that the equipment be moved after concerns were raised by respondents to the consultation exercise held in February.

Cllr P B suggested that a full survey of the park was needed before deciding on the new location which, he said, “has been chosen in haste”. Councillor L H agreed, telling the meeting that his view was that “the final decision over where to put the equipment, costing a lions-share of £100,000 of tax-payers money, was being rushed through”.

Cllr M H suggested that the new site was in danger of impinging upon the football pitches and that further consultation was needed.

Cllr R S then tabled an amendment to the proposal to fully evaluate the new site, conduct a proper survey of the park and re-examine the value-for-money achieved by the choices of equipment. But his amendment was rejected for further discussion after clerk T G ruled it unconstitutional as it differed substantially to the already tabled motion, and had not been presented to councillors seven days in advance of the meeting.

The motion to install the HAGS-SMP playscape option 2, but substituting the boulders for another piece of equipment, was carried by 9 votes to 4. The passed proposal also includes fencing for the site to be paid by Section 106 funds, the mechanism which contracts home developers to pay towards local amenities.”

This immediately raised concerns for me as a disabled member of the community as where they were proposing and agreeing on the new site being positioned was much further from the car park (as any wheelchair user will tell distance is everything) and not only this, that there were stretches that were not paved at all, but were grass, a nightmare at the best of times, but once they are used regularly and in wet conditions become muddy and unusable. Like so many of the other parks in the town already (although many of these have been in existence for as long as my parents can remember). I thought surely in the 21st Century, having had London 2012 and all the publicity surrounding equality and accessibility that this could not have been over looked………………………………….here endeth tonight’s cliffhanger, I will return with part 2 of let battle commence over the weekend!

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