I’ve had various conversations recently regarding the ‘Play Area’ on Abbotts Walk in the open area by the infiltration basin. I’ve done a bit of investigation over time, and to summarise the current position as I understand is that there will be an equipped play area built, but not until mid 2015 at the earliest.
When we first looked at the development one of the things we noted on the site plan (below) was a play area. Which with a 3 year old, at the time, it was a definite plus point.
The immediate question that sprung to mind, was what did the plan mean by ‘informal’, the sales staff did not seem particularly knowledgeable on the subject. So after a bit of investigation on the Winchester City Planning website turned up the proposed play area plans.
The planning permission shows a fully equipped play area, so why had this been downgraded to an ‘informal’ one?
A bit more digging turned up the consultation response from the council’s landscape and open areas officer.
So the council had asked Redrow not to build the play area! Instead hand over some cash, the cynic in me says this would likely be funnelled off somewhere else into an overall city landscaping budget and we’d be left with some benches and wood bark. A bit further in to the sales process we had sight of the Section 106 agreement (specifically an amendment in Feb 2012), which details all the contributions the developer is required to make.
So Winchester is being given a sum of £65,859 to build a play area and it very specifically has to be built on the site.
Additionally, the S106 also covered that there is a maintenance period of 1 year after the land is actually transferred to Winchester. So I wouldn’t expect the council to be able to build anything on the open space they’re receiving, certainly not until it had been legally transferred and most likely not until the maintenance period had expired.
With this I contacted Winchester Council to confirm these details and received a response from the landscape officer:
Dear Mr ——-
Thank you for your email. Your understanding of the arrangements for the provision of children’s play facilities at the Redrow development is correct. The s106 agreement included a sum of £65,859 to be paid by the developer to the City Council for the provision of play facilities on site, in lieu of them providing a facility themselves.
This amount has been ‘ring-fenced’ for this purpose but as you correctly state the development is some way off being completed and the land has not been transferred to the City Council yet. The intention would be to ensure that by the time the land was transferred a plan for a facility will have been agreed.
There has been no design work so far. However plans have progressed for the main area of open space to the rear of the development.
As the open space will also be available to adjacent residents, a meeting was held with some residents, elected Council Members, the developer and council officers on 20th March 2012. It was agreed that above all the main area of green space should be a safe area for children to use: well away from any vehicle manoeuvring area, enclosed and contained but well overlooked.
It was also agreed that there should be some formal play facility but only for the very young but that the specifics should wait until enough residents had moved-in before organising a consultation exercise.
So yes, you would be most welcome to contribute to the discussion when the time arrives however this will not be for at least another year to allow the developer to lay out the open space to a satisfactory condition and to maintain it for 12 months.
Call me should you need to discuss.
Stuart Dunbar-Dempsey CMLI
Open Space Project Officer
Winchester City Council
So it looks hopeful for a play area to be built at some point, but it will take a while. Hopefully it can use the existing planning permission, and the folks buying in that corner of the site are aware
Another concern was that one response from the council suggesting that the play area wouldn’t need fencing! http://planningapplications.winchester.gov.uk/Planning/652518.pdf . Personally, I hope there will be fencing as the meadow is likely to be used by dog walkers and the proximity to the infiltration basin, which currently isn’t as dry as it could/(should?) be.