The Parish Clerk has responded to a recent ‘Freedom of Information’ request received relating to the removal of the slide unit at Castle Hill Play Area. Response below:
1. When was the decision made to remove the slide in the playground?
I made the decision to remove the slide on Wednesday last week, following a meeting with the grounds staff who informed me that it was extremely wobbly*
2. Who made the initial suggestion to remove it?
There was no particular initial suggestion to remove the slide unit but, as it was 22 years old, it had deteriorated year on year and repairs were becoming more frequent. Following last year’s annual RoSPA play safety inspection, I had discussed its removal and replacement with the Parish Council in November/December 2012 in the knowledge that it was not going to last much longer. In making any decision such as this, first and foremost, I must consider the safety of the users of this equipment.
3. Was a risk assessment carried out? By whom? Please attach, with details of damage.
I am attaching a copy of the relevant pages of the RoSPA Play Inspection Report carried out in September 2012 and also in September 2011. You will see that in 2011 there was significant corrosion noted and we were tasked with monitoring and checking on a routine basis. You will see that in 2012 the slide unit was taped off at the time of the inspection as one of the deck planks had rotten through. This was replaced by our grounds staff after the inspection. However, the Risk score had risen from 8 to 10. I am also attaching a copy of our routine inspection record carried out by our grounds staff on Monday, 15th July.
4. Were any tenders sought for repair of the equipment? Please attach.
We have been repairing this particular piece of equipment in house over the last 10 years or more – replacing bits of wood and nuts and bolts here and there. However, the whole thing was starting to move in its foundations and I had sought a quotation to replace it along with the repairs of all the other equipment last year but, unfortunately, there was no money allocated for its replacement during the annual budget meeting held in December. Quotation from Alvian Ltd for the repairs of equipment at Castle Hill Play Area along with quotations for various options to replace the slide unit attached.
5. Who was given the job of removing it? Were tenders submitted? Please attach.
6. How much was paid for the removal? Please attach quotes and invoices.
Our grounds staff removed the slide unit so there was no tender submitted, no quotes or invoices and no extra cost to the rate payer.
7. How was the old stainless steel slide disposed of and did this generate funds?
The old stainless steel slide is tucked away safely in our lock up. We would either seek to get scrap metal value for it, sell it or re-use it in some way.
8. Have quotes been obtained for replacement apparatus? Please attach all.
A quotation has been obtained for a replacement unit – attached is Alvian’s quotation: Option 1, Option 2 or Option 3. I asked for this quotation to be provided in order for the Parish Council to have some idea of options to consider at the Annual Budget Meeting. However, there was no money allocated for replacement play equipment at the Annual Budget Meeting. When the Parish Council is in a position to replace the item, further quotations will be obtained.
*This slide unit was purchased in 1991 at a cost of £1527.50 using funds raised by the community. Therefore, the slide unit pre-dates EN 1176 which was published in 1998 and indeed, my inspection reports show that in 2001 it failed to meet the requirements of EN 1176: 1998. That said, I do not attach too much worry to the fact that equipment fails EN1176 (1998 or 2008) because (in RoSPA’s words): ‘This does not mean that equipment has suddenly become dangerous or that remedial action is required. Generally equipment that fails EN1176:2008 but passed the previous standard BSEN 1176:1998 at the time of installation should be considered safe (excluding any maintenance issues).’
However, since 2005 I have been aware of issues relating to movement at foundation level, with wonky and insecure steps, and we have repeatedly replaced planks on the ramp access and steps (carried out ‘in house’ by our grounds staff). In 2008 I was made aware that some of the posts were moving slightly at ground fixings. In 2011 I was made aware that there was significant corrosion on the barriers and in 2012 the equipment was taped off at the time of the RoSPA inspection. All these issues have been regularly monitored in our routine weekly inspections carried out by the groundsman.
I try not to become too obsessed with the Health & Safety Issue as I am well aware that obsessions with making things safe can lead to making them boring and, where children are concerned, this can create dangers. However, the safety of the user has to be a primary consideration when assessing the play equipment as the Parish Council has a duty of care to the users of its facilities and that the Parish Council can be sued if it is deemed to be negligent.
Last week, when the grounds staff reported to me that the slide unit had become very loose and unstable (I suspect that this issue was exacerbated by the recent hot weather and the fact that the ground had dried out considerably), I inspected the slide unit and made the decision to remove the item. This decision was made taking into account its age and the other issues raised at previous inspections for which we were already monitoring. I stand by this decision and feel that it was justifiable and warranted. The grounds staff still have the old wooden frame posts which, they tell me, are completely rotten.
I also need to consider professional indemnity when carrying out repair works to play equipment. I am happy to ask the grounds staff to replace a broken plank, tighten a nut or bolt or clean off graffiti or carry out routine wear and tear repairs but I could not ask them to dig out the equipment and re-install it as they would not have the professional indemnity that would be required by our insurance company (this issue would also apply to offers of volunteer help, unfortunately). I deduced that it would not be a good use of ratepayers money to pay to have this item of play equipment professionally repaired, given its age and the extent of repair.
There were other issues raised with the play equipment at Castle Hill Play Area during our annual RoSPA Inspection and these are currently being addressed. In October 2012, I did ask Alvian Ltd (the contractors carrying out the repairs to the other equipment) to provide me with a quotation to replace the slide unit and you will see that this is included in their quotation. (During their original site visit, Mr. Kevin Holmes of Alvian Ltd, did verbally agree that, considering its age, the slide unit was not worth repairing and should be programmed in for replacement). Unfortunately, whilst the Parish Council agreed to carry out Phase One and Phase Two of the refurbishment works, they did not agree to the replacement of the slide unit due to the high costs involved and the skate park priority situation. I am confident, however, that the replacement of this unit will be treated as a priority for the next financial year.
- Copy of routine inspection sheets for Castle Hill Play Area (dated 15.7.13 & 19.7.13)
- PlaySafety RoSPA Inspection Reports for slide unit at Castle Hill Play Area (2011 & 2012)
- Quotation from Alvian Ltd for refurbishment works to play equipment at Castle Hill Play Area (includes quotations for options to replace slide unit)
Minutes of Parish Council meeting held on 5th November 2013 (Item 172b) – available on parish website URL: http://merewilts.org/mpc/minutes/mins_archive/12/05_11_12.pdf
This has been written in order to try and address and respond to some
of the concerns and questions on the Mere Mutters Facebook page.
Mere Swimming Pool
Following consultation with the community, the Parish Council organised and funded the refurbishment of the swimming pool when we took on the lease of the Duchy land and facilities. A committee of volunteers came forward to run the swimming pool, oversee the swimming sessions, check the water, heating & chemical levels etc. but the volunteers dwindled and the swimming pool was out of use for a while. Then Mr. Bob Parsons came along and, with a small committee of helpers, carried out sterling work over a period of 5 years to re-open the pool again as a community facility. It is a huge amount of work to keep the swimming pool open and relies on a team of dedicated and willing volunteers and there is also a wide range of health & safety, risk management and insurance issues relating to the management of the swimming pool. Bob & his team managed this with enthusiasm and dedication but were dogged by two very poor summers, repeated vandalism (despite the Parish Council surrounding the pool with anti-climb security fencing) and the last straw was when the pool inspection revealed that it would need extensive repairs in order for it to be re-opened. After moving into Sprout & Flower, Bob Parsons no longer had the time to invest in the swimming pool and the Parish Council has asked, at various meetings and through Mere Matters, whether there are any other volunteers out there who would like to form a committee and help with fundraising in order to re-open the pool. Only one has come forward, Mrs. Sandra Catley, who is actively seeking funds to refurbish and improve the pool, seeking committee members and volunteers. So, if you would like to help Sandra, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward your details to her.
A substantial grant was awarded to the Parish Council by Wiltshire Council’s South West Wiltshire Area Board towards the Skate Park project in March 2012 but this grant will only cover a quarter of the costs involved in installing a skate park. In October 2012 a local resident, Mr. Roland Heming, put himself forward to help with the skate park project. Mr. Heming is a very keen BMX rider and uses skate parks extensively throughout the local and wider area. Mr. Heming has a lot of enthusiasm for this project and since he came on board, things have been moving at quite a pace. After having contacted various skate park providers and meeting some of them on site, the most interesting, challenging and aesthetically pleasing design has been put forward by Maverick Industries. They are a skater run business from Poole specializing I design and installation of spray in-situ concrete skateparks. They have completed many skate parks across the country and have come up with a concept design that fits in with the area and is a free flowing design that would provide a diverse skate park for the use of skates, BMX bikes and skateboarders. They also provide the services of a designated project manager and experienced skater throughout the project. Mr. Heming advises that, in his experience, these concrete design skate parks were more durable and long-lasting than the prefabricated designs and would require less ongoing maintenance.
A user group meeting was held in Mere Youth Development Centre on Thursday, 13th June which was well attended by people between the ages of 6 to 50. Mr. Russ Holbert from Maverick Industries attended the meeting and explained the concept behind his design scheme and he had brought along 3D visuals of the design with dimensions etc. The meeting generated much enthusiasm and ideas to refine or change the scheme were forthcoming from the younger members of the group. It was agreed that these ideas would be collated and examined to see if they could be incorporated in the scheme.
The Parish Council now has over two thirds of the funding needed to proceed with this project and I have very recently completed a grant application for the remaining funds but one of the requirements is evidence of some community fundraising. So, if anyone wants to help in raising some funds within the community to get this skate park in Mere please contact me via email at email@example.com. Please contact me also if you would like to view a copy of the skate park design/plans.
Castle Hill Play Area
The Parish Council carries out a weekly safety inspection on all the play equipment and is legally required to have a professional safety inspection carried out annually. RoSPA Playsafety carry out our annual safety inspection and last year various issues and problems were raised with the equipment in Castle Hill Play Area. You will see, from work being carried out at the moment, that we have had to replace the old big swings and we have had to take up, clean and re-lay the safety surfacing. The log walk has been tightened up and re-treated and the children’s swings have been spruced up. Unfortunately, the climbing frame with slide unit has been patched and repaired so many times and was so wobbly that I deemed it necessary to remove it due to the high risk assessment it received during the last inspection. The Parish Council does intend to replace this with a new slide unit in due course but there are no financial resources available during this financial year as the budget allocation was directed towards the skate park.
The Parish Council plants the tubs around the town to give impressive floral displays and they are planted twice a year for summer/autumn displays and winter/spring displays. There are 14 tubs within the town as well as two large beds in The Square and the four large concrete beds in the Salisbury Street Car Park. Mr. Clive Hazzard has graciously agreed to replant the tubs again this year and I should point out that this is done at cost price and at no profit to him and we thank him for this generous offer. We also thank the willing volunteers who water the tubs. We estimate the cost of planting each tub is £40 per year and once again, we are looking for sponsors and we would be grateful to any businesses or members of the public who would like to sponsor a tub. We will publish a list of all sponsors in a future edition of Mere Matters. If you would like to help with Mere’s floral enhancements, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
The Parish Council’s grounds team water the tubs and beds that aren’t looked after by volunteers but this has been a daunting task during this very hot weather.