Wellington is about to grow once again. Planning permission for 500 new homes at Longforth Farm has already been granted and an application for another 300 homes at Cades Farm has just been submitted. These new developments are good news for the town, its shops and businesses but, despite the attractions of a lively community and the beauty of its surroundings, families with young children may not be impressed with some of our play areas.
Wellington Park’s playground ought to be a flagship but, as one mum remarked, “This play area is underused and badly maintained. The equipment is old and uninspiring and the site is unattractive. Trees and hedges make it dark and wet and I would certainly not bring a picnic here in the summer. It’s simply not inviting as it is.”
Another disappointing facility is the playground in Burrough Way off Swain’s Lane., According to one local resident, “It’s never used. I walk my dog here every day and I hardly ever see children playing here.” The main playground and a smaller one for pre-school children was provided by the developer when the estate was built in 1990’s but has not been refurbished since then, despite being surrounded by family homes.
At the opposite end of the popularity scale is the play area in Howard Road, opened in 2009 and featuring a climbing frame, a pod swing, a girospiral and a massive tree trunk set in landscaped ground next to a football pitch is clearly attractive to children.
One resident whose house overlooks the playground said, “The children love it. It’s packed at weekends. Parents can keep an eye on their children from the houses and it’s really popular round here. There’s a problem with cats using the sand as a toilet but it’s well maintained – the waste bins are emptied every day.” As far as this resident was aware there have been few instances of anti-social behaviour and vandalism associated with the site.
Cades Mead offers an example of the way a play area can be inviting for parents and children alike. Provided by the developer, the equipment is colourful, robust and imaginative, set in landscaped ground and furnished with benches. One mum said, “Children love it. I bring a picnic here and it’s a really nice place for kids to play. The only problem is that there’s no sand. Youngsters love sand.” There are, though, local newspaper reports of residents being concerned about anti-social behaviour in the vicinity.
The play area at Oake, opened in 2010 and built with cash provided by a partnership between Play England, Taunton Deane Borough Council and the Big Lottery Fund, arguably represents the very best in playground provision. With its attractive, imaginative apparatus and open landscaping – and lots of sand – it seems to fulfil the criteria underlined by a council spokesperson in 2009: “The emphasis is on providing exciting and challenging play spaces with natural areas where youngsters can use their imagination.”
When new playgrounds are planned in the future developments of Longforth and Cades Farms, maybe it could be used as a model. One parent said, “My little boy would go to Oake every day if I could take him. It’s just a perfect place for him to play.”
However, there’s good news about future improvements at Wellington Park’s playground. “Earlier this year, Taunton Deane Borough Council commissioned Barnardo’s to carry out a consultation at half term in the Wellington Park play area,” commented the town’s mayor Cllr Vivienne Stock-Williams. “The event was very well attended and many ideas for making the site brighter and more interesting were put forward.
“As a result, there are exciting plans in the pipeline for a complete remodelling and refurbishment of the play equipment – which include the provision of sand and removal of a tree which now darkens the scene. Work is expected to commence later this year, when usage is lightest.”