Crawley adventure playground saved - but another will close in its place
Councillors have changed their minds about which adventure playgrounds in Crawley will close and which will stay open.
Earlier this year, the borough council decided to close the playgrounds at Creasys Drive and the Millpond, in an attempt to save money, in an attempt to save money, while keeping the Waterlea and Cherry Lane playgrounds open for unsupervised play.
But, during a meeting of the full council last week, it was agreed to close Waterlea instead and keep the Millpond open.
The change came after the council heard impassioned appeals from grandparents, parents and one young lad about the importance of the playgrounds as both a safe place to play and a source of community support.
With help from Crawley-based security provider Delta Security Management, some parents have been keen to take on the running of the Millpond as a community based initiative.
‘So much potential’
And a petition, launched by parent Natalie Campbell, was signed by more than 4,000 people.
Mrs Campbell told the meeting: “The site has so much potential which we want to expand on.
“Working with local businesses and organisations, we can offer more services and support through planned activities and events.
“The community and local businesses feel that the [Millpond] needs to be saved along with the other adventure playgrounds for the future generations of the town.
“If we can make this work, we can run this strategy out on other sites so that there are safe places available for everyone to access.
“We’re not going away, we’re not going to leave it and we’re going to carry on until we get it.”
‘I believe in young people’
There was applause for 86-year-old Phil Hayes – a much-loved former adventure playground manager – who stressed the importance of the sites for children’s health and social wellbeing.
He told the meeting: “I came here because I believe in the play service, I believe in young people.
“At this moment in time, health and safety is a big issue – mental problems with Covid and things like that.
“When children get room to play, develop and challenge themselves, those issues go.”
Funding cuts mean ‘difficult decisions’
As vehement as the residents were about the need for the playgrounds to stay open, there was an equally vehement response from councillors about the cost of doing so.
Leader Peter Lamb told the meeting that the council received about one-third as much funding from the government as it had ten years ago, meaning there had been some ‘difficult decisions’ made to balance the budget.
And he warned that, should the council fail to balance that budget – as it is legally required to do – the government would send someone in to do it for them.
And they wouldn’t particularly care what they cut.
Mr Lamb initiated the call to keep the Millpond adventure playground open, rather than Waterlea, saying it and Cherry Lane had been the subject of most of the emails he had received on the matter.
He also said that while Waterlea, in Furnace Green, and Creasys Drive, in Broadfield, would be ‘mothballed’, there were no plans to do anything with the sites, leaving open the possibility of bringing them back further down the line.
Decision ‘made on the hoof’
The decision to make the change was met with consternation from Conservative leader Duncan Crow, who represents Furnace Green
He wondered how such a change could be allowed without any scrutiny or consultation, adding that he felt ‘uncomfortable making a decision on the hoof’.
But the vote was taken and given the nod thanks to the casting vote of deputy mayor Morgan Flack.