SIR, — I hope I can add to the debate concerning the play area at Runcie Close, St Albans, by giving some of the history of the site. After representations from local residents about the lack of interesting play equipment in the area, the district council
SIR, - I hope I can add to the debate concerning the play area at Runcie Close, St Albans, by giving some of the history of the site. After representations from local residents about the lack of interesting play equipment in the area, the district council in 2005 decided to upgrade the play equipment at Sandringham Crescent - a site about 200 yards away from Runcie Close.
We arranged for playground equipment suppliers to visit Wheatfields School, whose children would obviously be the main users of the playground, and show the children pictures of various types of play equipment that was available. A number of schemes were drawn up using the children's favourites pieces, then with the agreement of the head and staff, a ballot was held and the children cast their vote (in secret!) for their favourite layout.
As Portfolio Holder for Sport and Healthy Living, I attended these presentations and the ensuing discussions with the children. In a mature way they debated whether all the equipment should be "heavy activity" or whether there should be a mix of strenuous and quieter equipment. They asked about shade from the sun, seats and even decided on the location of a litter bin. The scheme built was what the local children wanted, not what the adults thought they should have.
The cost of the new play area was �30,000 and it was agreed the Runcie Close playground would remain for the time being, but that when the equipment became too old and worn it would be taken out, as the new Sandringham Crescent play area was only a few hundred yards along a concrete pathway with a pedestrian crossing at the junction.
The council cannot afford to put in and maintain playgrounds at 400-yard intervals across the district, so Runcie Close had its card marked. When the equipment failed a safety audit last year - it was scheduled to be removed, as agreed in 2005.
I'm sorry that the residents don't feel they were properly informed. The new play area was always going to be a replacement for the Runcie Close one, but the lapse of three years between the decision being taken and the final removal of the equipment at Runcie Close allowed the scheme to become disjointed.
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CLLR SHEILA BURTON,
Portfolio Holder for Sport and Healthy Living, St Albans District Council