In 2014, Newport City Council was seeking to install fixed playground equipment in the Graig ward of Newport. Funding had been obtained through section 106, to develop six play areas in the Bassaleg and Rhiwderin areas.
Newport’s Parks and Recreation department led the development and requested the support of City Councillors, Community Councillors and the Play Development Team, to involve and consult with local community members, including children and young people.
Consultation events were held in community centres in both areas and residents were invited to see the proposals and have an input in whether they thought the areas would be beneficial to their communities. The initial proposal included a toddler park, children and young person’s park and a teenage park in each community. The involvement in this process from Councillors was very high, as it was felt that they would be able to support their communities to make an informed choice. A comprehensive presentation delivered by the Parks and Recreation team with assistance from the Play Development team demonstrated the value in terms of play for children and young people, whilst allaying some common fears about the negative impacts the play parks may have.
Alongside this, the Parks and Recreation team felt very strongly that the children and young people of the area should be heavily involved in the decision making of the project. With this in mind, consultation was held in Pentrepoeth Primary School, the only Primary serving both areas. Similarly, lower level consultation was held with local community groups, such as scouts and brownies groups. This was carried out over a period of months by the Play Development team.
The initial school consultation involved 295 children of primary age. The consultation asked children what they would like to see in the parks, in terms of play equipment and additional paraphernalia such as greenery, benches, litter bins. The consultation also focused on what stopped children attending parks and how we could make them more accessible, encouraging all ages to use them and also look after them. During this process many things were identified by the children as important – the equipment itself had to be stimulating, fun and exciting and the park area had to have additional features - greenery, places to hide, litter and non-smoking were also a high priority.
Based on the feedback of the children consulted, a tender process was conducted, which involved six companies producing designs for each of the park areas. These were assessed against a number of criteria, including best use of space, recycling and re-use initiatives, provision for inclusive play, play value and skill building and meeting the needs of the consultation. This tender assessment was conducted collaboratively between the Parks and Recreation and Play Development teams, to ensure that the consultation results gained from the primary school were a driving force in deciding the most appropriate tender submissions.
Following this process three tenders were chosen to be included in a secondary consultation at the primary school. A set of proposed designs for each park area, from all three tenders were shown to 231 children (year 5 children were unable to contribute due to examinations) and the children were very mixed in their opinions. For example, while one tender was assessed to be brilliant for the children and young person’s park, it was felt that they had not taken into consideration the need of the children with the toddler park; one year four child stated ‘it needs to be bright and colourful ‘cos little ones like that’.
However, after much deliberation, debate and mind changing, the children picked their favourite for each park in each area, based on what they had requested. The votes were then taken and counted and the successful company was awarded the tender. There are now three parks in each area, catering for the needs of specific ages but accessible to all and we are currently arranging to go to the school to conduct an evaluation with the children on the parks installed.
In relation to the Play Sufficiency Assessment, this process has improved many target areas set.
In Matter C, space available for children to play, open spaces and outdoor unstaffed designated play spaces:
- Brownfield sites owned by the local authority are assessed for the potential for the site to be reclaimed to provide for children’s play
- The local authority assesses play spaces for play value and potential to increase in play use as set out in the Statutory Guidance
- The local authority has introduced smoke-free playgrounds
In Matter H, community engagement and participation:
- The local authority promotes initiatives to engage youth groups, school councils, school governing bodies, community groups and other relevant groups in enhancing play opportunities for children in its area
- The Local Authority promotes community engagement in:
- making space available and suitable for play
- organising play events
- positive attitudes towards children and play
- training on the importance of play.
The cross collaboration and partnership working within the organisation has prioritised children’s right to play as stated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), ensuring full consultation and evaluation, allowing them to make decisions that will affect their play space.