Parents push council to spend more on upgrading Penwortham playground

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A popular Penwortham playground could get a more expensive facelift than first planned after parents had their say.

The park in Birch Avenue, opposite the Sir Tom Finney pub, had been in line for a partial refurbishment this year costing £75,000.

But, after a public consultation exercise, South Ribble Council is now being urged to almost double that to £145,000 following the response from locals who use it.

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Officers say feedback from parents who take their children to the play area, coupled with an updated inspection of the condition of the site, has indicated an extra £70,000 needs to be spent to bring it up to scratch.

Birch Avenue playground will now get a £145,000 facelift.Birch Avenue playground will now get a £145,000 facelift.
Birch Avenue playground will now get a £145,000 facelift.

Requests have been made by many respondents for more seating and picnic tables. Parents have also suggested wholesale changes in the type of play equipment being planned.

"The public consultation highlighted that some of the proposed replacement equipment and existing items proposed to remain were not popular and alternative equipment was requested," says a report to go before the council's cabinet on Wednesday.

"It is therefore proposed to replace items with alternative equipment in line with the most common consultation responses with safety surfacing areas amended as required to accommodate these.

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"In addition, more seating was requested by many respondents and therefore additional seating/picnic tables and associated hard surfacing is recommended for inclusion in the scheme.

Parents say some of the equipment is not popular with children.Parents say some of the equipment is not popular with children.
Parents say some of the equipment is not popular with children.

"An additional £20,000 is requested for the alternative equipment and seating and £10,000 for safety surfacing extensions/amendments."

The remaining £40,000 uplift is needed to resurface the whole playground area because the current material underfoot has deteriorated prematurely.

"A recent survey of the existing play area has found the deterioration of the Bitmac has accelerated in recent months, much faster than other sites of this age where the surface remains in good condition," adds the report.

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"The existing Bitmac has become very open textured and susceptible to frost damage potentially as a result of the way it was originally laid.

"It is likely that significant patching will be required within the next five years and therefore, with the new equipment proposed to have a design life of at least 20 years, it is suggested that the existing Bitmac surface is removed and re-laid with a denser surface finish as part of the refurbishment project."

Birch Avenue playground was last upgraded in 2005 and it was therefore assumed only a partial facelift would be required, unlike other play areas in the borough which were last improved in the late 1990s. Most of those areas have now been completely rebuilt at a cost of between £175,000 to £225,000 each.

A budget of £75,000 was set aside for the replacement of some pieces of equipment with the modern equivalents, entrance gates, safety surfacing under the equipment and the repainting of metal railings around the site.

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But officers say the original plan was rejected because "it would go against much of the consultation feedback received and potentially undermine the feeling of community ownership in the site and may undermine confidence in future public consultation exercises.

"The option of patching the worst areas of the Bitmac surfacing for now is not recommended as, although this would initially cost much less, the majority of the surface area is now rapidly deteriorating and therefore regular patching will be needed over the next five years, requiring temporary closures of the play area and potential damage to adjacent surfacing and equipment.

"Although the resurfacing of the whole area is more costly, doing it in a single operation during the refurbishment while the playground is already closed is considered to maximise efficiencies and get the best rates for Bitmac laying."

Cabinet members are expected to accept the recommendations.

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