Agenda item

Pre-Decision Scrutiny - Redditch Play Audit and Investment Strategy

This report will follow in an Additional Papers pack once the report has been published on the Executive Committee agenda (due for publication on Friday 29th December 2023).


The Cultural Services and Parks Manager presented the Redditch Play Audit and Investment Strategy to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Members were advised that the Redditch Play Audit and Investment Strategy had been undertaken as a result of the Leisure and Culture Strategy. The audit was an opportunity to ascertain the current situation of play provision in Redditch and how future play provision could improve the overall accessibility of play provision in Redditch.


It was reported that there were currently forty-two play areas across the Borough. Of these forty-two, nine had a remaining expected life span of up to three years. The proposals contained in the report for the play areas included the following:


  • The creation of two new neighbourhood level play spaces.
  • The upgrading of three play spaces from Local to Neighbourhood provision.
  • The upgrade of a further seven Neighbourhood play spaces and nine local play spaces.
  • The decommissioning of six existing play spaces that were at ‘end of life’.
  • Investment in a further twenty-seven play spaces, that were currently in good condition, but needed upgrading within the next ten years.


During the presentation of the report, it was noted that the inequality of provision had been mapped and assessed in detail through computer based mapping (GIS). Furthermore, it was explained that play areas needed to comply with national standards in order to satisfy risk management procedures and to comply with the Council’s insurers requirements.


The Cultural Services and Parks Manager outlined the financial implications contained within the report and that £100,000 of the 2023/24 play area requirement had already been accounted for in the Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2024-25 to 26-27 (Tranche 1) proposals. The Play Investment Strategy set out the costs of the capital programme for the play areas investment over the 10-year period with cost of circa £10,000 in year 1 rising to £145,000 requirement to finance the works by year 10.


Following the presentation, Members considered the report and the following areas were discussed in detail:


  • Concerns about the state of play sites at locations (e.g. Dale Road and Dolphin Road) and the inclusion possibility of consultation with residents on the repair and/or decommission – Officer explained that the locations above were identified as having a 1-3 years lifespan left but if immediate safety concerns were identified then decommissioning would start earlier. In terms of the proposed investment in creating a play area at Abbeydale Park (Terry’s Field), it was explained by the officer that the area had been looked at robustly as part of that exercise, with the Council’s Community Safety Team engaged, and it was judged that anti-social behaviour in that area had reduced to allow for play area to be developed. Residents would be consulted on the type of equipment to be used.
  • Willow Trees Community Centre play area – Officers explained that it was the understanding of officers that this play area was not under Redditch Council land management. However, the Officer undertook to check the agreement with regard to land management of that location.
  • Rationale behind replacing local play areas (specific toddler offer) with larger neighbourhood-level play areas – It was explained that from the Council’s perspective maintenance of smaller local spaces was logistically onerous on the Council as compared to larger, neighbourhood-level play areas. The investment cost of maintaining some local play areas also compared unfavourably with the neighbourhood play areas. It was further noted that the play area audit study had shown that there existed adequate (as defined by national standards) provision of play areas within 5-minute and 10-minute distance within the Borough.
  • Assessment of play area locations – It was noted that working out suitability of access to play sites within an area were based primarily on the number of children living in that area, which was then also compared with walking distance (how many households were within 5-minute / 10-minute walk distance of a play area). It was noted that routes for safe access to play areas, for example, easy accessibility to play areas that avoided major roads for pedestrians to cross, were also accounted for in the plans and were looked at as part of tender documents put forward by the Council.
  • Annual Maintenance Cost for Play Areas in Redditch – It was noted that the annual maintenance cost for play spaces was approximately £65,000 of which 58 per cent was staff time for inspections and maintenance and 42 per cent equipment and materials. The Officer explained that the inspections were carried out generally by Council officers and this allowed the Council to save money where officers had been able to identify and resolve issues with play equipment directly through inspections rather than going to a contractor. There was one full-time officer doing play area inspections in the Council, in addition to a team leader providing support.
  • Proportion of play spaces directly visited as part of the audit versus proportion assessed through a desktop exercise – Officers undertook as an action to check records and provide figures on this to Members.
  • Contingency allowance on cost estimates – Officers undertook to check if the 10 per cent contingency allowance on cost estimates for each play site was inclusive of the 5 per cent inflation allowed for as stated in the report or was the inflation included on top of the contingency allowance.
  • Some Members expressed concern about play areas in Matchborough and Ipsley wards and asked about the rationale behind the proposed closure of Eathorpe Close play area, aimed at younger children, which would mean that Matchborough had no facility for younger children, while maintaining Mil Hill and Matchborough Rocks play areas which were aimed at older children. A query was also raised regarding the quality of provision at Matchborough Rocks. It was agreed that the queries would be forwarded to Portfolio Holder for Leisure.
  • Responsibility for choosing play area sites to be closed – The Cultural Services and Parks Manager explained that the Strategy was commissioned by Community First Partnership who assessed provision in the Borough through computer based mapping (GIS) and databases. In addition, they consulted and worked with Council Officers and Portfolio Holders to determine which sites could be appropriate for decommissioning. It was highlighted that the targeting exercise was robust and no specific area was targeted through decommissioning decisions; rather these were based around the remaining lifespan and maintenance state and costs involved in retaining the play areas.
  • Some Members expressed disappointment that Ward Councillors and residents were not consulted with respect to decisions around play area closures.
  • Proposed new play area at Crabbs Cross – Some Members were pleased at this proposal and commented that it represented a positive step for the ward. It was noted that once a contractor had been appointed, any design proposals for this play area would be consulted on with relevant ward Members and residents.
  • Net loss of the number of play area facilities in the Borough – Disappointment was expressed by some Members that the report proposed that six play areas be decommissioned and only two new play areas created as, which represented a net reduction in play offer. It was noted by Officers that the Investment Plan aimed to increase overall accessibility and coverage of play areas for the Borough.
  • Capital Investment in play areas and the number of play areas falling into disrepair – It was reported that while day-to-day maintenance of play areas in the Borough had generally been good, the capital investment to date had not been adequate. The Redditch Play Audit and Investment Strategy included before Members aimed to put in place a 10-year capital investment programme that addressed this issue and ensured that play areas could be upgraded on a regular basis.


During discussion of this item, two recommendations were proposed with respect to reviewing the criteria of the Redditch Play Assessment to ensure that play facilities in every ward were fit for purpose and amending the Redditch Play Audit and Investment Strategy be based on any outcomes of the Redditch Play Assessment criteria review.


It was debated whether this could be amended to read that a review be undertaken of the six existing play spaces that were at ‘end of life’ and proposed for decommissioning.


At the end of discussion, the recommendation as proposed was seconded and on being put to the vote it was




1)    The criteria of the Redditch Play Assessment (Appendix 1) be reviewed to ensure that play facilities in every ward are fit for purpose and provide for the needs of children of all ages and young people and families.


2)    The Redditch Play Audit and Investment Strategy (Appendix 2) is amended accordingly to ensure that the strategic purpose of ‘living independent, active and healthy lives’ is front and centre.


[Following conclusion of this item at 8.27pm, the meeting was adjourned. The Committee reconvened at 8.32pm]



Supporting documents: