New look for two South Ribble playgrounds - including one with only a single swing

Two South Ribble playgrounds are in line for a new lease of life – including one that currently boasts just a solitary swing.

By Paul Faulkner
Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 12:27 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 2:06 pm

As the Post revealed earlier this year, children have to queue for a turn on the lone piece of equipment in the play area at Walton Park in Walton-le-Dale.

Worn-out kit at the 30-year-old site on Bellis Way has gradually been removed over the years – but not replaced.

However, a community group set up to restore the playground to its former glory is celebrating after securing a £30,000 grant towards a long-hoped for refurbishment – cash which doubles the amount last week allocated by South Ribble Borough Council as part of its ongoing programme of play space upgrades.

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Last one standing - the only piece of equipment left in Walton Park playground

Stephanie Harrison, from the Friends of Walton Park, says that the additional funding – from the Lancashire Environmental Fund – will enable the revamp of the wider park in which the playground sits, for the benefit of young and old alike.

“If the bid hadn’t been successful, we could probably only have afforded three new items of equipment once we had done other things like putting in a new, safer floor – but now we’re aiming for a little bit of everything, things like a see-saw, roundabout and climbing frame with slide.

“This year has also shown how important open spaces are to us all – so we’ll be getting some new benches installed and making it a safer area, because at the moment, there is a lot of overgrown shrubbery that provides a place for youths to hide behind.

“The playground itself will also be fenced off from dogs, but they will still be able to come into the park.

The benches in Walton Park are also in need of replacement

“We’re hoping for a big community event around Easter-time next year to officially open the new park – even if we still have to be socially-distanced by then,” said Stephanie, who paid tribute to her fellow committee members and the local councillors who have backed the campaign

The authority will now invite bids for the work – a process which has already been completed for the playground in Penwortham’s Hurst Grange Park, which will get a £225,000 council-funded facelift. That facility was last refurbished in 1998.

Defined spaces for children aged between 2-6 and 7-12 will be created, with equipment set to include a “landmark” item such as a slide and tower.

The two projects are the latest in South Ribble’s playground improvement plan, which restarted last year, seven years since a previous rolling programme of upgrades was completed.

Happier times - locals gather to call for an upgrade of Walton Park playground in less socially-distanced days, back in January 2020

However, not all of the borough’s play facilities were renewed during the last period of works, so those playgrounds with the longest-serving equipment have now been prioritised for an update.

Cabinet member for the environment, Sue Jones, told a cabinet meeting that Hurst Grange was “Penwortham’s principal park and serves a wide area – and the proposal is to provide a modern, accessible playground.”

Only one bidder has applied to carry out the work from a framework of potential providers.

Conservative member Alan Ogilvie said that the Hurst Grange and Walton Park overhauls could have been presented as a single project, with firms invited to give their “best price” for the two.

One of the pieces of equipment set to be replaced in Hurst Grange Park playground (image: Neil Cross)

However, the meeting heard that “best value” had been achieved as part of the normal procurement process.

The playgrounds at Leadale Green, Seven Stars and Worden Park, all in Leyland, have already been upgraded, with work on Haig Avenue due to start next year.

Hurst Grange Park playground last received a facelift back in 1998
All of Hurst Grange Park's play equipment will be renewed....
...at a cost of £225,000