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Axe for play areas looms

PLAY areas around Bognor Regis are to be stripped of their equipment.


The small sites will be closed once Arun District Council’s new play strategy comes into force next year. Unanimous agreement for the policy was given by councillors this week as the first stage of its adoption.


The proposal will be passed to the council’s cabinet and a future full council meeting for further approvals before it takes effect to allow money to be focused on bigger and better used sites.


Oliver Handson, Arun’s greenspace and cleansing contract and development manager, told the environment and leisure working group on Tuesday the council managed 80-plus play areas.


“The majority of the poor quality and very basic play areas that Arun manages were adopted between 15 and 25 years ago as part of the transfer of open space and play provision from housing development,” he said. “These play areas often serve a very limited number of properties.”


Surveys of the sites carried out by the council’s staff during safety inspection visits over 18 months had revealed their average number of users.


Those in the Bognor Regis area earmarked for closure after they were found to be the most poorly used were Roman Fields and Brickfield Close, Bognor Regis, and Holly Court in North Bersted.


No-one was seen playing at the Bognor Regis sites during the visits and only one at Holly Court. A total of 12 sites across the district are listed as non-priority in the new strategy. Their equipment will be removed as soon as possible. A further 16 areas will be classed as future non-priority to mean their equipment will remain but will be removed when major repairs are needed.


These sites around Bognor Regis are: Fir Tree Way, Berryfields and Ashbee Gardens in North Bersted, and Monterey Gardens and Kew Gardens in Bognor Regis. They had less than two visitors during the inspections.


The Queensfield games court in West Meads is also on the list but future consultation will be carried out about its continued use because of its potential.


Mr Handson said: “These areas will still remain be available as informal spaces for children to use as they want – running around, kicking a football or whatever they want to do.”


Working group chairman Cllr Phil Hitchins (C, Aldwick W) said the strategy made sense. “People are not satisified with just one swing or one slide any longer. They want to be immersed, with everything going on at one time,” he said. “In Aldwick, the very small areas put in when the houses are built, are no longer used.”


Cllr Mick Warren (C, Brookfield) said closing the smaller sites would help to save on the £35,000-40,000 Arun spent on play equipment repairs each year.


“That money is spent on clearing broken glass and dealing with the aftermath of vandalism. That is a very high amount of money being spent looking after those sites. If we can cut down on that money, that gives us more money to be spent on maintaining the play areas that are left.”

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