REFURBISHMENTS: Play areas investment approval
Merthyr Tydfil Civic Centre, Image: LDRS
Four play areas in Merthyr Tydfil will benefit from £280,000 worth of refurbishments this year in the first major investment in children’s playgrounds for two decades.
Full council approved the investment in play areas in Cefn Coed (Charlie’s Park), Twyn Carmel, Lewis Street in Bedlinog and Glantaff Road at its meeting on Wednesday, September 8.
The report which went before councillors said that the Council manages 52 fixed play areas throughout the county borough and that many of these facilities are coming to the end of their useful life.
An assessment of all 52 sites was done and based on their condition the four sites were chosen for refurbishment this financial year.
To provide facilities that meet the local equipped area for play (LEAP) standard, £70,000 per site is the estimated cost.
As well as the regular inspections carried out by council officers, all the fixed play areas receive an annual independent inspection.
As part of this inspection an estimate of the remaining lifespan is given and this information has been used along with council officer input to prioritise the four sites.
Factors such as repairs required, age, condition, realistic lifespan and play value have been taken into account when deciding on the sites.
In Cefn Coed, a large multi-play unit is due to be removed from the site as part of safety works leaving very little on the site.
The council report said there is a large grass area good for redevelopment with plenty of space so the plan is to refurbish it as the estimated end of its life is 2026
The Twyn Carmel play area has been closed due to safety issues and it is recommended that it is permanently relocated due to site access problems and size.
The land could be transferred to Wales and West Housing with the play area’s estimated end of life being 2021.
The Glantaff Road play area will have large multi unit removed leaving it with a low “play value” so refurbishment is recommended.
Log barriers at the entrance and the self closing gate are set to be removed with the play area’s estimated end of life being 2026.
And the Lewis Street will also see a multi unit taken out leaving the site with little value for play.
It was installed in 1989 so is in need of refurbishment with a rocker see-saw and safer surface tiles also set to be removed.
This play area’s estimated end of life is said to be 2026.
Councillor Geraint Thomas said: “We all should welcome this capital investment into children’s play.
“It’s the first serious amount of money that’s going to children’s playgrounds for 20/25 years in Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and let’s hope we can continue this on year on year and bring all the playgrounds in Merthyr up to the standard that our children deserve.”
Councillor Jeremy Davies asked why there had been no real investment into local play areas since 1996 adding that they had been left to “run down.”
Councillor Andrew Barry said: “The council has been in austerity for so long, having to make rationalisations to services just to try and cope with such a magnitude of cuts.
“We’re in the position now where in 2019/2020 we made a surplus of £2.89m. Currently with audit we have last year’s accounts where we made a £4.464m surplus and already this year we are in a position where we’ve got £1.46m in surplus projected to April 2022.
“We are in a position now where we are able to reinvest in the very services that have been starved of resource for so long and I think it’s only right that we put it into these areas and continue to put it into these areas because these are the areas where it’s low to no cost for these kids to play.”
He said they need to continue to review it and keep their eye on the finances and if finances allow then resources need to be invested.
Neighbourhood services officer Robert Barnett said he thinks they did rather well in keeping the 52 sites going through austerity.
He said over the last 25 years they have constantly asked for additional spending but they were often refused which he said they could understand that given that they were going through difficult times, it’s not a statutory service and the money was needed elsewhere.
But he said money has been made available this year and they will prioritise based on their professional experience and from an independent inspector and he disagreed that parks had been left to run down.
Cllr Jeremy Davies said they haven’t been investing in play areas when they should have been adding “surely as a council we should be investing for our children’s future.”
Councillor Michelle Jones said it’s a fantastic investment for their children and said she’s sure they all welcome it and Councillor Kevin O’Neill said it’s reassuring that the decision has been made to invest in something like this which has such a wide scale benefit for everybody.
Councillor Chris Davies said they owe it to their children and further investment needs to be a priority.
Councillor Brent Carter praised the council staff for delivering this after experiencing years of cuts to their budget and Councillor Lisa Mytton said “this is the step that we needed” adding that they are committed to making sure they have proper play facilities in all wards in the county borough.
Words: Anthony Lewis, Local Democracy Reporter
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