Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Political Fight Over Play Areas

After nearly six months of work Reading East's Palmer Park and the adjoining adventure playground have been unveiled to the public following a £146,000 investment.

The improvements include giant boulders for scrambling, buddy swings, a rope-end swinger, a ground-level trampoline and open-air table tennis tables as well as innovative acoustic play equipment all aimed at encouraging 8-13 year olds out into the open to enjoy fresh air, exercise and a wide range of organised activites.

300 beech trees were planted by residents in December to form a hedge, while the seeding of a natural play area with wild plants will help spur appreciation for the natural environment.

£1m funding has been provided by the government over three years to Playbuilder which is being used pay for the refurbishment of over 20 play areas in the borough, while Marks & Spencer is donating the 1.85p profit it makes on it's 5p single-use carrier bags to the Groundwork environmental charit.

Alongside Palmer Park, Tilehurst's Robert Hewitt Recreation Ground, and the play areas in West Reading's Beresford Road and Longbarn Lane have also seen works started, while Reading East is set not to miss out as other areas lined up for improvements will include Mapledurham, Emmer Green, Meadway and Christchurch Meadows.

Reading's Lead Councillor for Children's Services Cllr John Ennis expressed his delight at the completion of the first project in the scheme, saying, "I'm sure generations of East Reading children will benefit enormously from it."

On his own blog Cllr John Ennis reprints the press release with an additional quote from his party colleague and Lead Councillor for Culture and Sport, Cllr Graeme Hoskin, who said, "This is another major milestone in our programme of improvements for play areas across Reading."

LibDem Park ward candidate Alex Kirke is delighted that the park's facelift and hopes he will be able to 'contain his inner child' now that it is reopened. He celebrates his good fortune to live so close to one of Reading's most beautiful parks, arguing that "It is a hub to the community and it is essential that continue to maintain and preserve it."

Meanwhile, just as several playareas are earmarked for improvements, Conservatives in Abbey ward are campaigning for the closure of a playarea in Denbigh Road.

Abbey Ward candidate Andrew Waters sent an open letter to complain about noise from late-night drinking alleging drug dealers use it to conduct their trade, arguing that the play area should be converted to gardens.

He pointed to a survey conducted by his party that 75% of resident are in favour of closure of the green space.

However the Bell Tower Residents Association conducted their own survey finding a majority of residents want to keep it open to the public and had written to the council to object to the proposed redevelopment of the plot.

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