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Play area

Protecting our recreational spaces

We are rightly proud of South Woodham's outdoor spaces. They are spectacular, the envy of many other parts of Essex and reflect well our riverside location. We were sad to see the loss of the toddlers sand play area a couple of years ago when the City Council removed it under the guise of upgrading the Compass Gardens play area. The loss has left parents upset as this play space was much loved by parents, carers and toddlers alike.

In 2022, a play area which had been used by parents and toddlers for decades was closed to be replaced by a larger ‘all-ages’ play area on the Compass Gardens side of the park.

While the new facility was welcomed by parents and older children, others felt that the loss of a dedicated, safe toddler area was a reduction in services for the town. Certainly we were keen that the Compass Gardens play area be upgraded. However, we contest that the new play area 'adds more' to the offer for our residents. To begin with it has a smaller footprint than the area it replaced without the loss of just shy of 1000 square metres of enclosed play space that existed in Saltcoats Park. We brought this up with those responsible for the change and spoke in the Council Chamber to try to get the decommissioning reversed but so far to no avail.

Instead the current LibDem administration points to the fact that the local residents chose the design for the new play space. We don't remember there being a poll on losing the Saltcoats site. So, we did our own survey in late 2022 and found that a ‘Toddler Sand Park’ was the third most desired facility residents chose out of the thirteen options that residents suggested for the parks.

Parents and grandparents we spoke to felt they did not want their younger children sharing the same space with older children. The risk of injury due to school-aged children racing around and colliding with toddlers means it is less likely for parents to visit the play area out of school hours and over the weekends and holidays.

We have also been pursuing Chelmsford City Council about what they plan to do with the decommissioned site at Saltcoats which has been laying fallow and fenced off. Originally, an extension to the car park was mooted since on some weekends the Saltcoats car park was unable to cope with the number of users and cars were being parked dangerously up on Ferrers Road verges near the entrance. Instead of carrying out this plan the Council says that the new upgraded and extended car park at Compass Gardens is sufficient to meet the demand. We feel otherwise. Not only is this car park a long way from Saltcoats, but the extension isn't always open and cars are often parked up along Creekview Road because there is insuffiecient space.

Residents have also complained to us that the park's toilet facilities are a long way away from the new larger play area and mobile café and aren’t signposted well or always open. We are campaigning for better signposting and new toilet facilities closer to where the main use of the park is.

As the only local party in South Woodham Ferrers, we know that residents want improved play, leisure, youth and sports facilities, paths that don’t flood so often, more seating and a lot else besides. Chelmsford City and Essex County Council do listen sometimes. Chelmsford gave a contract to the popular Phoebe’s mobile café recently (the top request in our park survey was for a café).

As a local party we think that our clear voice on behalf of residents, not coloured by national party politics, will deliver more and better facilities and services to our town.

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