To consider report HCS/26 of the Head of Community Services and the Petitions Officer.
The Commission considered report HCS/26 of the Head of Community Services and the submission from the Principal Petitioner.
The report responded to the petition submitted from residents titled ‘Save Crawley’s Adventure Playgrounds’, following the recent budget consultation whereby over 1,200 residents gave their views on potential service changes an option was proposed to review the adventure play moving to a more flexible model of delivery. The petition documented the concerns and issues with loss of the supervised sites within the town as follows:
“Crawley Council have just announced that they will be closing all 4 of our adventure playgrounds, 2 will close completely and 2 will become unsupervised play areas.
This will leave the children of Crawley with nowhere safe to play. The adventure playgrounds are a part of Crawley’s history, they have been around for 60 years! I grew up spending most of my childhood playing in them and so have my children. They are still well used by so many local families. We love having somewhere to go that provides a safe place to be outside, socialising and exercising with toilets, staff and refreshments available to all. Us parents can meet up and we can bring the little ones along and they play here all day, they make new friends, gain confidence, get fresh air and exercise without it costing a fortune. Where will we go without these? Where can you go knowing that the kids can roam free without the worry of safety and knowing there is always a safe adult to hand if needed. What type of people could these areas attract if unsupervised?
They also offer reasonably priced childcare services throughout school holidays for those of us that don't have the ability to pay private fees whilst we are at work. For some parents this is a life line and we will be lost without it.
Where will our children go to socialise now? Out on the streets, causing mischief and creating issues due to boredom or stop going out and rely on technology?! We don't have youth clubs anymore, so these are their only options? What good will either of these do for the mental health of the next generation? Please sign our petition to ask the council to look at the options again and review this decision!”
In accordance with the Council’s Virtual Committee Procedure Rules there were no in-person public speaking rights, however the principal petitioner had been given the opportunity to submit a written statement in advance of the meeting and this was read to the Commission. (This is attached as an appendix to the minutes).
The Commission thanked the principal petitioner for their submission. The report outlined the research that had been undertaken following receipt of the petition. Members considered this and the additional information.
During the discussion with the Cabinet Member for Wellbeing and the Head of Community Services, Members made the following comments:
· Residents should feel compelled to organise a petition if they were concerned regarding an issue affecting the town. It allowed officers and councillors to re-assess issues.
· It was remarked that the results of the consultation should not be ignored. There had been a 68% reduction in children attending activities provided by the Council’s Play Service.
· It was acknowledged that other providers (not for profit) may be interested in the adventure playgrounds. However the sites would require substantial capital investment that exceeded current funds and the operational costs were significant.
· Children and young people had different expectations regarding play and the budget needed to be spent wisely, with the play team being allocated in the most effective and efficient way possible to ensure children could continue to be engaged.
· It was noted that the playgrounds were a part of Crawley’s history and whilst they had been successful in the past, there was a need to move away from static sites. The proposed outreach model was more effective and would be provided in open spaces, parks and buildings, covering the whole town and be fully accessible and inclusive.
· It was acknowledged that the Play Service was primarily aimed at five to thirteen year olds. It was not intended as an alternative to youth provision. Youth Service provision was within the remit of West Sussex County Council.
· Clarification was provided regarding the cost per visit.
That the Commission notes the petition, statement from the Principal Petitioner, background report and requests that the views expressed during the debate, are fed back to the Cabinet through the Commission’s Comment sheet.