The Committee considered the undernoted report:
“1.0 Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues
1.1 The purpose of this report is to update Members on the successful 2021/22 Playground Improvement Programme (PIP), the latest annual Independent Playground Inspector’s report and the playground refurbishments proposed from that for inclusion in the 2022/23 programme.
1.2 Members are asked to note that refurbishments are to be funded under the Capital Programme and that an allocation of £580,000 has been agreed for this work, in this financial year.
1.3 The report also updates members on the refurbishment works completed under last year’s PIP (2021-22).
2.1 The Committee are asked to:
· Agree refurbishment works at the sites below under the Playground Improvement Programme (PIP) 2022-23. This year’s programme has an allocated budget of £580,000 under the Capital Programme for financial year 2022/23.
1. Areema playground
2. Sally Gardens playground
3. Westlands playground
3.0 Main report
Playground Refurbishment Programme
3.1 Since its inception in 2012, the Playground Refurbishment Programme continues to make a significant and positive impact to the overall quality and play value of the city’s playgrounds; this has greatly improved accessibility, providing more inclusive equipment, safety surfacing, boundary fencing, site furniture and landscaping works.
3.2 With continued investment over the last ten years, Council is achieving the desired improvements at each of its sites. Over the last year the Council has constructed a new playground at the Vere Foster site and refurbished the Ormeau 2000 (Park Road) playground. Refurbishment works at Cavehill Adventurous playground (senior section) are also nearing completion
3.3 In January 2022 Council secured an additional £97k of DfC funding for previously agreed refurbishment works at Clarawood Park playground (junior zone). These works are now due to commence in early June 2022.
3.4 The Council’s newest refurbished playground facilities below are now more inviting, inclusive, and exciting places for children and parents to visit, moving their quality scores to the desired higher standard. (See appendix 1 – images of recently refurbished playgrounds at Forster Greene and Ormeau 2000 (Park Road).
3.5 Members should note that Play Services Ireland Ltd have undertaken the annual independent playground inspections on behalf of the Council. The ‘quality score’ allocated for each playground is based on compliance with European safety standards BS EN 1176-7: 2020.
3.6 The independent playground inspection report highlights the age range for each piece of playground apparatus and identifies and prioritises repairs to existing playground equipment. The Council’s Facilities Management and Playground Inspectors continue to undertake these repairs in the order they have been prioritised. (See Appendix 2 – copy of Independent Playground Inspection report for Sally Gardens playground).
3.7 Each playground is individually categorised, giving a combined ‘quality score’ Sally Gardens playground for example was allocated an overall quality score of 5.6.
Score 9 – 10 Excellent
Score 8 – 9 Very Good
Score 7 – 8 Good
Score 6 – 7 Fairly Good
Score 5 – 6 Sufficient
Score 4 – 5 Fair
Score 3 – 4 Insufficient
Score 2 – 3 Poor
Score 1 – 2 Very Poor
Score 0 – 1 Extremely Poor
3.8 Following the independent inspection assessments of all 104 playgrounds across the city, it is proposed that sites listed under Item 2.2 are refurbished as part of this year’s Playground Improvement Programme, which has an allocated budget of £580,000 under the Capital Programme.
3.9 The playgrounds recommended for refurbishment are the ones with the lowest quality scores (See appendix 3 – 2022 mean quality score ratings). Because of the proposed refurbishment works, these playgrounds will move from insufficient/poor/fair to the higher classification of ‘Excellent’ – quality score 9 – 10 when re-inspected.
3.10 Members should note that Areema playground has been out of commission for several years due to the construction of a social housing scheme adjacent to the playground, resulting in the facility being closed to the public. Members should also note that Areema playground is in a very poor condition. Council’s Independent Playground Inspector recorded that all existing playground equipment was in a poor state of disrepair and recommended complete removal of all items, which has now been passed on to the Council’s Facility Management to undertake.
Financial and Resource Implications
3.11 The proposed playground refurbishment works will be funded through the Capital Programme and a budget of £580,000 has been allocated to this. C&NS Landscape, Planning and Development Officers will continue to re-design play facilities and project manage all works associated with the 2022/23 Playground Improvement Programme.
3.12 As in previous years, the OSS Managers will continue to assist with the distribution of information relating to playground improvements to elected members, local communities, and user groups.
Equality or Good Relations Implications/
Rural Needs Assessment
A Member welcomed the refurbishment works that had taken place to the Ormeau 2000 (Park Road) Playground as part of the 2021/22 refurbishment works.
A further Member highlighted that it was disappointing to note that a quarter of the parks within the Great Shankill had fallen within the bottom 20% in terms of quality scores ratings in the inspection report, yet all had missed out on refurbishment works as they did not happen to be the bottom three
The Director explained that the PIP was an Independent Playground Inspection report which had identified, through rigorous processes, the proposed three playgrounds as those with the lowest scores and noted that some of the aforementioned playgrounds might meet the threshold during next year’s inspection programme.
Given the points raised in the earlier presentation, several Members reiterated the need for more inclusive and accessible playground equipment.
The Director of Neighbourhood Services advised that the Council was committed to providing accessible and inclusive playground equipment for children of all abilities. She stated that, in terms of new playground schemes, the Council was keen to engage with residents to ensure that local needs were met.
Discussion ensued regarding cleanliness of the playgrounds, the Director provided the Members with detail regarding the daily cleaning and health and safety checks undertaken, she encouraged the Members to contact officer’s director if they had any cleanliness issues that needed addressed urgently.
The Committee agreed the refurbishment of the playground sites detailed below, under the Playground Improvement Programme, which had an allocated budget of £580,000 under the Capital Programme for financial year 2022/23:
· Areema playground
· Sally Gardens playground
· Westlands playground