York playgrounds to get overdue refurbishment

…but there is a catch

The York council plans a £250,000 make-over of playgrounds in York. Their plans will be discussed at a meeting next week. The initiative is welcome, but the timetable produced means that improvements in our parks will not be evident until late next year.

Many of York’s playgrounds are poorly maintained with litter, weeds and dog fouling common problems

Standards in many parks and playgrounds have declined in recent years. They have been an easy target for Council expenditure cuts. As a result, it has been left to volunteers to undertake minor refurbishment work while items of broken equipment have often remained unusable for months on end.

The Liberal Democrats – who are now part of the leadership of the Council – advocated for many years that at least one piece of equipment at each major playground should be renewed each year. This would have ensured that there was something novel to engage children’s interest on a regular basis while avoiding the whole-scale decline, and eventual expensive renewal, of complete play areas.  This approach seems set to be abandoned by the new Council leadership.

We agree with the report, which has been written by officials, when it says “Whilst the number and geographical spread of equipped playgrounds is therefore generally good, their play value is more varied. This reflects their age and sporadic local and national investment that has been available”.

The report promises an “audit” of all playgrounds with a view to identifying “urgent investment needs e.g. replacement swings, seats, surfacing repairs”. The budget for this work will be £150,000. The report lists the qualifying play areas but omits some such as the one  in Dickson Park on Tedder Road.

More controversial, is an allocation of £100,000 as a “challenge fund” for larger refurbishment schemes. One feature of these is that matching funding will be expected from parishes or social housing providers. In theory the fund will be available in non parished areas but the examples of fund raising quoted in the report (Poppleton, West Bank Park) refer to typical “Middle England” neighbourhoods where fund raising for new amenities is relatively easy.

It’s potentially bad news for areas like Westfield (the statistically poorest part of the City) which also has a high proportion of under 16’s in its population

The area has suffered badly as a result of recent Council decisions which have seen the removal of open spaces, sports facilities and the multi user games area at Kingsway West and Lowfields.

It seems that it may also be last in the queue for improved play facilities.

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