Following my concerns over the managed abolition of the Ridgegrove play areas and the lack of one on the Kensey Valley Meadow development, at today's scrutiny meeting I asked for a full review of play and play areas across the whole of Cornwall and the committee agreed.
As I see it, the Council's approach is just too disjointed at the moment. Perhaps this is not surprising. After all, we are seeing seven councils join together and there will be work needed on integrating services. There is also the problem that the Housing Department is responsible for some play areas when they should be more generally managed.
And then you have the hundreds of town and parish councils which themselves own or manage play facilities.
I think that we need to look at facilities for play across Cornwall. I'm betting that there will be a great disparity. We need to have a better strategy so that the provision is more equally based on local needs. I hope that the planning policy group will be involved so that they can create a new standard for developments in the future. Certainly, large scale estates like Kensey Valley Meadow being built without access to proper facilities should never have happened and must never happen again. I'm glad that things are looking hopeful there, but retrospective action is a poor substitute for proper planning.
One of the measures suggested by Housing Cabinet Member Mark Kaczmarek was that groups of people should band together to bid for grants for play. I'm all in favour of this where it is possible, but I think he (and the Council) need to accept that it is not always the way forward. In many cases, the residents have been let down so often that they are disheartened. Community action is also much easier where you have a more stable population of better educated residents. In areas with more mobile populations with greater needs and less education it can be impossible to get such groups together. Do such areas not get facilities because they are less able to make their case?
I'm very grateful that the committee agreed to look at this and very hopeful that we will get a better play policy and provision as a result.