The Group received a presentation from Erect Architects on the plans to upgrade the sandpit and surrounding play area at the park. It was reported that Erect Architects specialised in urban play and had completed significant designs at Kilburn Park and the Olympic Park. It was felt there was a lack of enthusiasm for sand in urban play and many sand pits had been replaced due to the ongoing maintenance costs associated. The architects saw the sandpit at the park as an asset and were excited to work with it.
A consultation event had been conducted and all the initial designs presented had all been positively received. Members discussed the results in detail and the following points were noted:
- The sand was very popular and seen as a safe place to play, however a few users had felt that the sand was dirty, and had noted that the underlying membrane was on show. Sand also leaked onto the path.
- Users liked the size of the sandpit area.
- The play vehicles were a popular offering.
- Direct access to the toilets was strongly supported.
- Users liked that the play area had only one entrance.
- The water play design was very popular.
The architects had a budget of £50,000, and the services of Members of the Open Spaces team to assist with the labour. The design presented had incorporated as many of the positive elements from the consultation process as possible within this budget. Water play, mounds, textures, tunnels and slides were included. The triangular grass section would be developed to include a toddlers swing and additional picnic seating. A horse and cart and tractor would replace the play vehicles.
Members queried the maintenance regime for the sand and whether it was treated to maintain hygiene. It was confirmed the sand was regularly monitored and raked, and sprayed with diluted bleach once a month. In response to a further query from a Member, it was confirmed that the labour had been anticipated ion the work programme, and that it provided a good opportunity for staff from outside Queen’s Park to experience a new open space and work in a different team.
It was confirmed that the waterplay area would include a large drain away, and it was anticipated that the wet sand and the natural play border would prevent the sand from escaping from its designated areas.
The access to the toilets that had been requested in the consultation exercise did not form part of the initial refurbishment project, but would be scoped by the surveyors department as a separate project in February.
Members discussed the timescale of the project, and there was agreement that the works should take place as soon as possible, even if it meant closing the play area for the Easter holiday, so as to be open in time for the May half term. It was asked that the fixed play equipment that was to be replaced be offered for sale to local schools and playgroups.