Children’s Play Area – Let us know your views

Introduction

Shorne Parish Council is proposing to carry out a modest upgrade to the children’s play area on Shorne Common.  Although it will not be huge new play area, it will be a significant investment for the parish, and it’s important we get it right, so we are inviting residents of Shorne to let us know their views.

If your children or grandchildren use the play area, or are likely to make use of it in the future, we would very much appreciate you taking the time to respond to us by emailing us your support to: playarea@shorneparishcouncil.org.  The more positive responses we receive, the better our chances of securing grant funding.

Please take a little time to read this as it is intended to give you a bit of background and an idea of our initial proposals.

Location and description of the children’s play area

Shorne Play Area is situated on Shorne Common at the top of Mill Hill Lane in Shorne.  It can be reached on foot from the village centre via Butchers Hill.  There is a small parking area adjacent to the common.

The play equipment is set in a pleasant green surrounded by mature trees.  There are bench seats available, and beautiful woodland walks nearby.

The play area is open to all residents during daylight hours.

A location map is show below.

Why do we want to upgrade the play equipment?

The existing play equipment was obtained second-hand from Gravesham Borough Council  approximately 25 years ago.  It consists of a toddlers’ slide and a toddlers’ cradle swing.  Although well used and well maintained, the two items of equipment are not compliant with modern standards, and cannot easily be modernised.

The annual inspection reports regularly highlight the following deficiencies:

  • The timber steps on the slide do not provide sufficient grip;
  • The steps on the slide have no handrail;
  • The safety barrier on the slide platform is climbable;
  • The slide framework mounting steelwork is within the fallspace;
  • The swing shackle bushes in the frame are worn.
  • In addition, the bark surfacing is not compliant, and requires regular replenishment as it decays.

Although the deficiencies are classified as low risk, it is not practicable to upgrade the existing equipment.  In short, it is nearing the end of its useful life.  A photo of the existing equipment is shown below.

The existing equipment only caters for toddlers, and can only comfortably accommodate 2 or 3 toddlers at a time.  This can be problematic for parents, grandparents, or guardians with more than one child, especially if they are of different ages.  The existing equipment has little to offer or interest children over 4 or 5 years old.  Depending on funding availability, the Parish Council would like to extend the range of play equipment to cater for more children, and for a wider age range from toddlers up to children of around 7 years old or so.

Kent County Council has already offered the Parish Council a grant of £5,000 towards the cost of upgrading the play equipment, kindly sponsored by our local County Councillor Bryan Sweetland.  However, we still need to apply for further grant funding and we need your support.

Environmental Considerations

Shorne Common is a pleasant green on the edge of the countryside, surrounded by mature trees.  There are bench seats available, and beautiful woodland walks with far-reaching views nearby.  It is a popular location for local residents and walkers, set within Shorne Village Conservation Area.  It is important that any new play equipment in this area is designed to complement the natural environment.

We propose to install rustic, timber-clad play equipment for the most part, as we consider this would be best-suited for the woodland environment.  We will also ensure that the equipment we install does not generate mechanical noise that could cause undue noise in the area.  The only noise we would like to hear is small children enjoying themselves.

An example of the style of equipment we are considering is shown opposite.

One of the most important considerations is the installation of modern safety surfacing.  The bark or softwood chippings that we have used for the past 25 years are not compliant unless laid to a depth of 300mm or 12 inches, which would make it impossible for toddlers to walk across.  The Parish Council replenishes the surface to a depth of around 150mm or 6” every spring, which costs around £100 plus labour, but it mulches down within a few months.  Unfortunately, loose bark and softwood chippings are also attractive to cats and foxes.

There are many different types of safety surfacing available, including non-permeable resin surfaces which are available in a variety of bright colours.  These may be appropriate in certain applications, but may not be suitable for a woodland location such as Shorne Common.  We are therefore considering a permeable surface made from bonded recycled rubber, which is treated to give a natural appearance.  An example is shown opposite.

We hope that by making the play area more interesting and a pleasant place to visit, more parents and guardians will be attracted to using these local facilities, rather than travelling further afield.  In this way, we can make a small contribution towards reducing our carbon footprint and helping to protect the environment.

New Play Equipment

New play equipment and safety surfacing is expensive, and we must balance the cost against the amount of use the play area is likely to receive, and the overall benefit to the community.  Shorne currently has one of the lowest parish precepts in the area, and the Parish Council will need to seek grant funding to help pay for the new equipment.  The amount of grant funding we receive will be a deciding factor in the amount of new equipment we can install.

The play equipment we would like to install is intended to appeal to a wider age range, from 1+ to 7 years old or so, and to enable more than 2 or 3 children to take part at the same time.  As well as enjoying play, children are naturally inquisitive, and we would like our play equipment to stimulate interest and curiosity, help develop strength, balance, and motor skills, as well as social interaction, whilst at the same time allowing children to enjoy themselves in a safe and secure environment.  These skills and strengths will help the development of children in readiness for school.

The basic items of equipment we propose to install are as follows:

Swings.

We propose to replace the existing single cradle-seat toddler’s swing with a two-seater swing.  One of the swings will have a cradle seat for toddlers, and the other swing will have a flat seat for older children aged up to 7 years or so.

An illustration of the type of swing proposed is shown opposite.

Slide Tower.

We also propose to replace the existing toddler’s slide.  We have 2 options here.

 

Troll’s Shelter.  This is our preferred option.  This playground set includes a 1.47 metre high covered tower that can be reached by two different ladders. It features a long slide and a fireman’s pole for more adventurous children. The Troll’s Shelter is a multifunctional piece of playground equipment with many options designed to develop children’s motor skills and suitable for climbers of different levels.  It accommodates up to 7 users at any one time, and is primarily aimed at children aged 3 or over.

 

Hide & Slide.  This is an alternative option.  This unit includes a 0.87 metre high covered platform, with gently angled stairs that even a one-year-old toddler can tackle. One of the two walls is a fence wall, and the full-height boarded wall has a window so that kids can be easily supervised at all times. The small wooden slide with a steel sliding surface compliments the structure beautifully. It accommodates up to 4 users at any one time, and is primarily aimed at toddlers and very young children.

 

Optional play equipment

Depending on the level of funding obtained, we would like to install one or more additional items of play equipment.  As examples, these could include:

Grasshopper Spring Bouncer.  Similar to a see-saw, this small-size spring bouncer has a gentle motion is suitable even for children of kindergarten age. The motion trains children’s rhythmic awareness and improves the sense of balance.  This is designed for two children aged 2 years and upwards.
Animal Springer.  There is a range of single child springers for children aged 2 years and upwards.  Again, the motion helps with children’s rhythmic awareness and improves the sense of balance

Adventure Trail.  Another option could be to create a mini adventure trail in and out of the trees immediately behind the play area if it is feasible, perhaps incorporating a few ‘stepping stone’ logs, or a lumberjack bridge.

Community Involvement

We have found that funding organisations look favourably where local community actively support the project and are actively involved in the project.  There are a number of ways in which the community can get involved.  These might include:

  • Fund-raising. This could take the form of:
    • Organising a coffee morning;
    • Organising a bring & buy sale;
    • Crowdfunding;
    • Organising a raffle.
  • Private donations towards the capital cost of the equipment and surfacing.
  • Helping out. The fitter members of the community might want to roll their sleeves up and help in creating the mini-adventure trail, for example!
  • Other practical support could include:
    • Helping to keep the site clean and tidy;
    • Periodic cleaning of the slide and swing surfaces;
    • Cutting back encroaching vegetation, weeding;
    • Leaf blowing;
    • Periodic weed control.

Not everyone can help practically, but letters or emails of support can really help secure funding.

Please let us know we have your support, and the reasons why.  You can also let us know any other items we might consider, if it’s affordable.  And if you want to help, please let us know.

Please send your responses back to us by email to: playarea@shorneparishcouncil.org.

Ideally your response should reach us by 6pm on Friday 15th January 2021 in time for our next grant application!