Agenda item

Petition – “Save Crawley's Adventure Playgrounds”.

Wellbeing Portfolio


To consider the joint report HCS/26 of the Head of Community Services and the Petitions Officer, which was referred to the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission held on 1 February 2021.




That the Cabinet notes the petition, and agrees to continue with their original decision surrounding the adventure playgrounds.



Reasons for the Recommendations


To ensure the procedure for petitions as detailed in the Council’s Constitution is adhered to.



The Cabinet considered report HSC/26 of the Head of Community Services. 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 advance of considering the report the Cabinet hear from the principal petitioner via a copy of their written statement providing further support to their petition. The statement was read out by an officer, in line with the Council’s Virtual Committee Procedure. (A copy of the written statement was attached as an appendix A to the minutes).


The Cabinet Member for Wellbeing in presenting the report expressed his empathy with residents who had signed the petition wanting to protect the adventure playgrounds, however the council was facing an ongoing reduction in its income and the changes to adventure play would save the Council approximately £210k immediately. Two of the facilities, Cherry Lane and Waterlea, would remain, but running in a different way, with Waterlea receiving new investment. To keep the others Creasy’s Drive and the Mill Pond and updating them to a suitable and safe level it would cost a between £500k to £750k. It was noted that the average cost to taxpayers per child per visit to the adventure playgrounds was over £30 and that the number of users were consistently dropping, reducing by over 60% in the last 20 years.


It was emphasised that the adventure playground and the Council’s play services were designed for five to 13 years olds and not for teenagers, which was in response to a point made as part of the petition, questioning the closure of facilities for teenagers within the Borough. However, the Council’s focus for the Play Service would now be on outreach work in local communities and there was a commitment to continue to update local playgrounds across the town.


Councillor T Belben presented the O­verview and Scrutiny Commission’s comments on the report as detailed in report OSC/293, to the Cabinet following consideration of the matter at its meeting on 1 February 2021, which included:

·         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 and that there was a 68% reduction in attendance at the playgrounds.

·         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 used in the most effective and efficient way possible to ensure children could continue to be engaged. 

·         It was acknowledged that the Play Service was primarily aimed at five to 13 year olds. It was not intended as an alternative to youth provision. Youth Service provision was within the remit of West Sussex County Council.


Councillor Lamb commenting on the petition reemphasised that the tough decision was taken, following the financial pressure created by the Covid pandemic and the Council had a legal duty to pass a balanced budget. If the decision was reversed then the Council would struggle in meeting that requirement as there was no suggestion on how the Council could make up the difference. However, as the Council did receive an unexpected grant since the savings were first proposed, current provision would now be maintained for the most part for much of the coming council year. Councillor Irvine also spoke as part of the discussion on the report. 


Councillor Lamb moved that the petition be noted but there be no change to the current decision. A recorded vote was taken on the recommendations in accordance with the Council’s Virtual Committee Procedure Rules.  The names of the Councillors voting for and against the recommendations, along with any abstentions, are recorded as set out below:


For the recommendations:

Councillors Irvine, Jhans, Lamb, Mullins and P Smith. (5)


Against the recommendations:









That the Cabinet notes the petition, and agrees to continue with their original decision surrounding the adventure playgrounds.


Reasons for the Recommendations


To ensure the procedure for petitions as detailed in the Council’s Constitution is adhered to.


Councillor Mullins after the item had finished confirmed that he would write to the

Principal Petitioner thanking them for the petition and providing them with a further explanation as to the Cabinet’s decision including addressing all the areas they raised and questioned.

Supporting documents: