Dear Cheltenham Borough Council,
On Monday the 6th of June I visited the new ?500,000 play park in Cheltenham at Pittville Park with my 18 month old daughter. Parents across Gloucestershire have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the revamped and expanded park, and were thrilled when it opened on the Friday before May half term. We were on holiday at the time, but went for a visit the following Monday, after it had been open for a week.
- The facilities look brilliant
- There are so many activities for children, traditional swing park facilities, disabled facilities and musical stands
- Sand and water areas is a nice touch – also a disadvantage as it means we need a towel and change of clothes! So this is no longer a quick stop at the play area to tire little one out. I also immediately thought ‘how clean is that going to be?’
- Large area – great for little ones to let off steam and run around
However, this excitement was quickly muted as we started actually using the facilities and realised some shortcomings:
- Toddler H, who’s 18 months old, was a bit overwhelmed with so many facilities, the number of people and older children running about. Usually toddler areas are separated from older children’s play areas by a fence. This is not the case.
- The toddler climbing/slide has a rope bridge with big gaps in it which are far too big for an 18 month old to cross. This is very dangerous as there is a roughly 3 foot drop under it. I’m unsure at what age a child could use this.*
- The toddler slide requires?parents to guide their younger toddlers the ‘safe’ way and make sure they don’t go down the middle drop. In addition, parents must lift toddlers over the dangerous rope bridge – if they don’t realise it is there then there could be an accident.
- There is also a big drop off the toddler climbing/slide in the ‘inside of the ring’ – again only suitable for older children.
- Sandpit/water features – these sound fun, but are side by side so require a towel and change of clothes. They are also right next to the play facilities with no boundary fence or gate closing them off. I’d have thought keeping them separate would make sense as not everyone wants to use them every time. As I mention above, my first thought was regarding it’s cleanliness and upkeep.
- No shade! Now a drinks/ice cream hut with picnic benches has been added to the play park, which is a great addition, however, there is no shade, or parasols. The only shade in the park are from trees – which isn’t enough. Are there plans to add shade to the picnic/cafe area?
Toddlers have to be followed closely by parents and guided. This was not the case on any of the old park facilities, they were all safe for toddlers. In busy times (e.g. as I left at 10.30) parents couldn’t get close enough to do this. Children were queuing to climb the steps and I was not confident I could safely reach and guide my daughter with so many others crowding round.
The toddler facilities are?open to the older children’s play area?and so there is no safe toddler area: they could quite easily try to use the older equipment, and annoyingly older kids can use the toddler equipment. Parks often?have a fence with gate bounding each area.
There is a car park for 150 cars, however on the day I visited, leaving at 10.30, the car park was overflowing. It was absolutely heaving. with cars queuing to park and having to manoeuvre around parked cars.
I visited at 9.30-10.30 on a school in-service day. Cars were everywhere and parked along the entrance to the car park. I dread to think how busy it would have been later in the day, and as such this is influencing when I may visit in the future. Now that the facilities have been massively expanded, are there plans to expand the car park?
This is something I didn’t spot to a huge degree myself, however, I met friends afterwards and several visited independently in the first week and said the same thing: there was litter and cigarette butts littering the play park. This is not acceptable anywhere and particularly not in a children’s play park.
As a result of all of the above, my friends and I will not be visiting the park again until the council provide?sufficient?upkeep and safety checking. One friend has?already written to the council regarding the rubbish and upkeep. I also really think the toddler area should be fenced off and the rope bridge to the left of the steps with wide gaps be made toddler safe.
Since writing this initially, the local paper has today reported that used tampons, glass and other disgusting rubbish has been found both in the park and the sandpit areas. This is appalling and I absolutely will not be visiting the park.
I have just seen the article I originally read at lunch time has been updated with a quote from the Mr Coleman, Deputy Leader of Cheltenham Borough Council who says:
“there are measures in place to watch out for this kind of thing…?We have got an inspection programme in place… That happens each and every morning.”
I’m sorry, but that’s not enough! They have to be throughout the day if thousands of people are using the park.
Mr Coleman also says “There has been discussion of whether we put a huge fence up and gates but it’s a public area. I don’t think putting a big fence around something that’s supposed to be for everyone is desirable.”
No, I don’t agree with this statement at all: this park is for children and toddlers NOT adolescents, thugs or vandals. A fence should be there to protect them, protect the thousands of pounds of equipment and protect the children.
My questions to Cheltenham Borough Council…
Cheltenham Borough Council, you’ve spent an astronomical amount of money on this park, you need to upkeep it or it will be boycotted and will fall into disrepair very quickly.
Specifically, do you have a daily schedule for maintenance and rubbish collection, more so than just morning inspections? What time are these maintenance checks??
Can you also advise me on what age the toddler slide equipment is intended for? ?I am very concerned that the bridge on the left of the stairs on the toddler slide is not safe for those 18 months old, as that is the only slide suitable for little ones. It’s a shame the slide?is situated on a piece of equipment they can’t ‘just play on’ and need close guidance (moved in the safe direction) by their parents to ensure they are safe. ?(Please note my daughter has been walking very confidently for over 6 months, but the gaps on this bridge are too wide).
Please consider?installing CCTV or high fences to ensure safety and stop the play park being destroyed and littered by vandals.?
Lynne & 18 month old Toddler H
Updated: 14th June 2016
* This letter has been featured?in the local paper, the Gloucestershire Echo (Mother slams ‘dangerous’ equipment in Cheltenham’s half-a-million pound play area ), along?with a statement?from the Cheltenham Borough Council?regarding the equipment I have been writing about:?
A council spokesperson said: “We’d like to reassure parents that all the play equipment is designed and built to British Safety Standards and the play area has been fully inspected by an independent play area inspector.
“There are no high risk issues however there is a certain amount of risk in play and very young children should be closely supervised.
“The play area is inspected every morning and litter is cleared as soon as possible. “
I perfectly accept the equipment is designed and built to BSS, and did not assume otherwise. I?always?assume my very young daughter needs close supervision, in fact she’s pretty much always on reins. I’m just disappointed that in a ?500k park, on this equipment she needed my hand on her the whole time, guiding her in the safer direction, and for me to lift her over a large drop. Many parents were not that close, and as it got busier they struggled to?get close enough. ?
I still feel my point of this not being safe for my 18 month old is valid. The technical data for the slide can be found here and I’ve taken a screenshot of it too:?
Therefore, I am correct in saying that this toddler slide is not suitable for an 18 month old – it is designed for age 2+.?Surely there should be a warning at the equipment stating this? Parents tend to assume as soon as a child can walk they can use a lot of ‘toddler equipment’ with very close supervision and a helping hand. In this case, children younger than 2 are using this equipment, which has a large drop that is not immediately visible. As I mention above, it’s just a shame that this slide is not suitable for all toddlers and does have parts which are not suitable for younger toddlers,?as?it is so?easy for them to climb up the stairs?and fall almost straight down on their next step.?
If you haven’t seen it, this is a picture of the?toddler slide I’m taking about (a screenshot of the slide equipment from the developer, Eibe’s,?website, followed by?a close up).
I have annotated this close up from the Eibe website (the developers of the equipment), to show the features I am talking about.
I don’t expect anything to be done about this slide,. As with all the equipment at the park, those old enough to use it will love it. I do hope the council can do something about the litter, as well as the disgusting rubbish and glass that has been found. I also hope that all park users can simply?clean up their rubbish! Let’s not have the select few spoil it for the rest of us!