Kirklees Council’s Cabinet has backed a £9.5million scheme to improve play areas across the borough – and it will be shaped by residents.
Following Cabinet approval, on 8 October the Council will begin consulting residents on what they want in their local play areas from spring 2020.
The aim of the scheme – which was originally presented to the public earlier this year – is to enhance play areas so they better meet local need.
There are 314 play areas in Kirklees but some have outdated equipment, some also have equipment which isn’t used by the local community.
Replacing the equipment would cost around £4million but the council plans to do much more than this. This is a £9.5million investment to take play areas in Kirklees to the next level.
Cllr Rob Walker, Cabinet Member for Culture and Environment, said: “When we launched our plan to do this earlier this year, some residents were concerned that we would be removing play areas or replacing the equipment with things they didn’t want.
“Let me be very clear, no play areas will be closed and improvements that are made will be shaped by local residents. This is not a U-turn, this has actually been the case from the very start.
“This scheme is about people in Kirklees. Improvements we make must be what the people who use our parks want and I wanted to make sure this was clear.”
That is why Cllr Walker presented a report to Cabinet on 8 October to recommend that the strategy is revised to make it clear that the council will not be removing any play areas and will be working with the community to agree on any changes.
The revision also states that the classification of play areas is removed so there is no impression that some areas are more important than others, when in reality even small areas can have significant local value.
Cllr Walker added: “Something we’re still interested in is introducing more natural looking play equipment where we can. Now this isn’t just rocks and logs, which has been reported, it’s any features which are made from natural materials. This would give a broader range of age groups the opportunity to enjoy our play spaces and it is shown to be good for mental health.
“We’d like to try this out but, I’d again like to be perfectly clear, we will only introduce this type of equipment where residents want it.”
The council will now re-start the consultation with local councillors and in the spring next year a full public consultation exercise will begin. Details of this will be announced at a later date.
In the meantime and during the consultation the council will still have to maintain and repair equipment, and there may be opportunities as part of that to do something different. However, no changes will be carried out without consultation with local members and the community.