I have detailed regularly over the past year about the issues with accessible play parks in my home town. The stand against the councils decision to rip out a park that was accessible culminated in a protest in July and August this year where we stopped the diggers and a combination of over 100 protestors at various times and local and national press coverage got our County Council involved. They offered to mediate and commenced their own research in to the whole saga.
The final report was made public yesterday and having read and digested it a couple times I have to say I am over the moon. The research conducted was very thorough and gives some great background information in the importance of play for children, accessible play and community cohesion. It goes on to say how there are compromises to be reached and makes recommendations for the Town Council. It must be said that at this time there are 2 things I am sad/concerned about, the first is that this consultation cannot compel Wymondham Town Council to take action, although it does go a long way in making them aware of mistakes made and where progress is needed, and secondly that for reasons outside of my control I cannot make the next full Town Council Meeting when no doubt the paper will presumably be discussed……………..
In the meantime I will however share a few important extracts from it
The starting point for resolving the current difficulties was based on the following principles:
The need for a good quality, fully accessible playground in the Town Centre – which offers safe access on foot, access for parents and children with special needs or disabilities, as well as meeting the needs of children for play
The need to find a location for the site which avoids the current conflict between the needs of those living next to it and those of the wider community who use the facility.
The encouraging message from the young people’s activities is that without a doubt, working towards a solution to this situation must actively involve young people from the Town.
Another clear message from the young people was that in many cases, adult members of the community have behaved badly during this process and things need to change. The work with young people on this matter going forward can be a key ingredient in making this change a reality.
From the various activities that have taken place throughout the process, it is clear that the community of Wymondham is passionately committed to being involved in the development of their local facilities. People have willingly come forward to be involved in the process using many of the formats made available to them.
The KHM has a legacy as a place to meet, enjoy and share family time together
The KHM has been a long standing community space including play equipment for many years
The KHM is a popular place used regularly by many members of the community
Communication and Community Engagement
Open and honest two way communication between those responsible for making decisions and members of the community is fundamental in moving forward
It is important that involvement in the decision making process is fair, open and transparent
The importance of actively engaging the community including young people when planning and developing projects that have community interest.
Compromises are possible, if people agree to work together.
Not all teenagers are anti-social in their chosen leisure time, and should be respected as active and equal members of the community
There is a wealth of interest from the community to get together on developing a meaningful compromise and to be continually involved in the process
And my all time personal favourite quote from the report
KHM Playground is a flagship site for its accessibility for people with additional needs and disabilities
The full report can be found here! I am immensely proud of my town, the community involvement and the fact that despite having the door repeatedly slammed shut in our faces over many months we came back stronger and more determined. We uncovered lies with Freedom of Information Acts, got external bodies to speak out, won Councillors round, made new friends and not only have we hopefully saved a very important and needed accessible play area, I think the repercussions of this will be even more far reaching and will make our Town Council rethink the way they conduct business in the future and make them realise that it is the people of Wymondham that they represent not one another.