Red light on dangerous playzones in Flintshire

Reporter:

Matt Jones and Helen Davies

PLAY areas across the county are to be investigated after more than 100 were rated as being low or very low.

The county’s 172 play areas have been judged on a traffic light rating with 13 placed in the ‘red’ category.

According to council bosses without sufficient annual revenue and investment several more play areas will fall into the danger zone each year.

Nine sites are rated as very low or low with respect of disability access and do not comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.

Flintshire Council’s lifelong learning scrutiny committee has appointed a working
group, led by Cllr Carolyn Thomas, to visit any sites they are concerned about.

She said: “They have shortlisted so many as red threats. We want to make sure there is still a future for play in Flintshire. I want to make sure the children are looked after.

“I know how important it is to the community that there are facilities to access. They are really important gathering places so the children can go and meet.

“When the equipment is not usable it is removed but it is not replaced. There is not enough money in the budget.

“In Treuddyn we have been lucky because we have had a lot of people asking for grants. Not all communities can access these grants or know how to.

“I want to make sure the right things are being done. We need to consult with the local members. I want to be a champion for the children. I think it is a big challenge. Play areas are vital.

“The money is not there to replace faulty equipment."

Play areas are rated on various factors including condition, maintenance and usage.

Eighteen were placed in the green category, 141 in amber and 13 red.

Cllr Owen Thomas is angry that the council is removing play equipment it deems unsafe but not replacing it.

He said: “Two or three items have been removed from the Nannerch play area. It’s getting to a point where soon we won’t have any equipment. Finances aren’t going
to get any better.

“I’m on a crusade to get these play areas back up to scratch. I’m going to look at
grants, it’s not money that’s going to come from the council.”

Cllr Ray Hughes, part of the working group which will be looking at the play areas, added: “Everyone wants the money but it needs to be shared around. The needs for the disabled need to come into it as well. Everybody needs to be catered for,
disability or no disability.”

Argoed community council has introduced a rolling programme to improve play areas in the ward.

Argoed Cllr Hilary McGuill said: “I think other community council’s should do the same or they will all reach their sell by date at the same time. The play areas only
have a certain shelf life.”

She added there is also an increase in “mindless vandalism” on play areas but they have a limited budget.

Mike Hornby, head of Leisure Services for Flintshire Council, said: "The task group will proceed to examine the play areas identified as requiring more urgent consideration as soon as possible in the New Year.

“Arrangements will be made with local councillors and a timetable agreed for the site visits. It is hoped that a report back to the Lifelong Learning Overview and
Scrutiny Committee could then be made early Spring 2011.”

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