An open letter to Cheltenham Borough Council regarding Pittville Play Park, Cheltenham

Life with a toddler
New Mummy Blog Open Letter to Cheltenham Borough Council - Pittville Park Cheltenham - New Play Park Facilities - Litter, toddlers
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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.

First thoughts:

  • 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:

Facilities:

  • 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?

Boundaries:

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.

Car parking:

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?

Litter:

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.

Additional concerns:

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.?

Kind Regards,

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:?

Eibe Technical Data for Pittville Park Toddler Slide - AGE 2+

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).

june-10 - toddler slide play park equipment by Eibe

pittville park toddler slide - age 2+

I have annotated this close up from the Eibe website (the developers of the equipment), to show the features I am talking about.

june-10 - toddler slide play park equipment by Eibe - closeup2

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!

 

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Briony
    June 13, 2016 at 5:24 am

    What a shame to get a nice new park but then not be able to use it. L would be really put off by the toddler area being open to the older children, he asked to leave a park the other day when it got boisterous, and he’s a year older than H. Honestly if you can’t park there, it’s got truly filthy litter and little kids can’t really use it they seem to have missed the mark.
    Briony recently posted…Doddle Bags from Lakeland – ReviewMy Profile

  • Reply
    Kim (sisterkin)
    June 13, 2016 at 6:43 am

    What a pity. Sadly so many of these parks are made by beaurocrats in offices with little or no discussion with the general public (let alone the people they are targeting). A fence seems like common sense to me, as does separating the toddler area like you say. So many times this is all about design over function. So sad that you won’t be using it. #fartglitter
    Kim (sisterkin) recently posted…Yee-haw! Rootin Tootin Car-bootin’My Profile

  • Reply
    Jules Pondering Parenthood
    June 13, 2016 at 6:53 am

    What a shame, as it seems like the park has great potential. Hopefully the council will get these issues sorted soon.
    Jules Pondering Parenthood recently posted…Flying Solo – The End of Hubby’s Paternity LeaveMy Profile

  • Reply
    Catie; An imperfect Mum
    June 13, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Sorry to hear that you didn’t feel that the new park was a safe environment for your toddler. It is difficult at the best of times visiting the park with a lively toddler but worse when there are drops and there is rubbish too.

  • Reply
    Sarah- Arthurwears
    June 13, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    It’s shame some of these safety points weren’t thought about before hand – with the cost of playgrounds I doubt there will be any funding to make any changes. Although a lot of what you have written does sound like an inconvenience – I am surprised that so much money had been allocated – the next town along from me has a small playground in serious disrepair and not accessibly to toddlers (apart from 2 toddler swings) but the council won’t provide anything. Local mums have been fundraising for the last year and will continue to do so until enough is raised to pay for a new playground – it will prob take a while. We have quite a large park in Ilkley and unfortunately as with most places it does attract adolescents in the evenings and weekends meaning glass bottles and other rubbish left behind. Also with the floods the sandpit is essentially contaminated because of the stagnant water so needs to be changed. Frustrating as we pay a higher council tax for the privilege of living in Ilkley yet we get a lot less in terms of services than others in ‘bradford’ which is the council we belong to. #fartglitter
    Sarah- Arthurwears recently posted…Children Changing Careers p6: Karen from Two Tiny HandsMy Profile

  • Reply
    Rhyming with Wine
    June 13, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    It’s so frustrating when something which could be potentially so amazing is spoiled by a few individuals and a lack of attention to minor (but still critical) details. It’s such a shame that you feel that won’t be able to enjoy and use these facilities and I sincerely hope that you get the response and solutions that you are looking for.

    Thanks for sharing with #FartGlitter x

  • Reply
    This Mum's Life
    June 14, 2016 at 7:50 am

    I hope that the council take on board this fabulous letter, as it is a crying shame to spend so much money on a park that sounds so unsafe, and not a fun environment for children at all. What is it with toddler equipment that has sudden and unexpected drops, and rope bridges with enormous gaps? A lot of our local parks have this problem, and it infuriates me that whoever designed the equipment can’t see that this is glaringly unsafe for a toddler! And parks where older children are left to run riot in the toddler area with no separation, is a massive bugbear of mine, and I always leave immediately if my children can’t play without the threat of being floored by older children. There does seem to be a monumental amount of issues with this park, I just hope they can be addressed!
    #bigpinklink
    This Mum’s Life recently posted…Bluestone and Beautiful PembrokeshireMy Profile

  • Reply
    Annette, 3 Little Buttons
    June 15, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    Wow, that’s such a gorgeous piece of play equipment. It’s a shame that the gaps in the bridge and that drop (!?) wasn’t considered. I would be worried too, and as you know, little ones can be a bit pushy/shovey sometimes, even a 2+ year old could easily topple down. Brilliant letter. I do hope it’s taken seriously. #Fartglitter
    Annette, 3 Little Buttons recently posted…Fairies Magical Potion StationMy Profile

  • Reply
    Silly Mummy
    June 19, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    I have to admit that I wasn’t aware that playgrounds with fenced off toddler areas actually existed! We don’t have anything like that near us. They all just have a variety of equipment suitable for different ages mixed together. Generally the only things completely designed as suitable for babies and young toddlers are the baby swings! We have a few with sand and water areas – they are always combined here too. I don’t personally love the mess either…but the kids do!

    It has actually never really occurred to me to consider whether there is anything wrong with the provision of facilities – I think I actually tend to assume that playgrounds are more aimed at slightly older kids than really little ones & don’t think much of it! My two toddlers do go on some of the equipment for older kids (especially with their dad!), but we give them lots of help. I agree it can be an experience trying to cover all the areas with open edges at once if you let a toddler up on a frame!

    I agree that rubbish and dangerous items are really annoying & off putting in kids’ areas. I can see that it must be hard to have the resources available to constantly police it though. It’s such a shame that people can’t behave decently and respect these areas in the first place so there doesn’t need to be anyone constantly picking up rubbish.

    Hope your concerns get addressed to your satisfaction – it’s nice to have play areas around that you like to take kids to. #bigpinklink

  • Reply
    My happy list 7 - friends, family, hubby - New Mummy Blog - A pregnancy, parenting, lifestyle & home blog in Gloucestershire
    February 18, 2017 at 10:48 am

    […] had a lovely morning at the park in Cheltenham with friends. H had a ball and was a much better age for the toddler equipment than last time we […]

  • Reply
    J Flint
    August 24, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    We visited this park today and my 20 month old fell between the planks on the rope bridge and hurt hersel, banging her head and arm, which she could have broken. We also witnessed three other toddlers doing the same. Utterly disgusted that the council still hasn’t done something about this despite being informed 2 years ago. Considering legal action.

  • Reply
    Free days out & activities in Cheltenham & Gloucester | Summer 2019 - New Mummy Blog
    August 20, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    […] only go to the big new play park in Pittville Park with one child or I can’t keep track of them. The playpark is so big and open they can just […]

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