New play equipment on the way for Fishponds Park
NEW play equipment will finally be installed in Fishponds Park – nearly five years after a project to update it started.
Friends of Fishponds Park, the driving force behind the venture, say the play area will be a huge improvement to the existing one, which dates back to the 1960s. But they have criticised Bristol City Council for the numerous delays which have seen the project officer in charge of the scheme change six times.
Work to remove the old equipment was expected to start in March and it is hoped the play area will open in May.
The Friends say they are disappointed that their original plans to install Bristol's first PiPA play area, which would have made play accessible to all children including those with disabilities, was scuppered by the authority two years ago.
The Friends believed the park could become a destination park for parents and children in Bristol and beyond, with the added benefit of providing a welcome boost for the local economy.
The park had met all the criteria – it was on a major bus route, near a car park and had toilet facilities.
But in its 2018 budget the authority announced it was closing the the toilets, effectively cancelling all the hard work which had gone into the project.
Brian Smith, chairman of Friends of Fishponds Park, said: “It's been a long process. There were three designs and the one we now have isn't the one we actually wanted but we had to compromise.
“PiPA is a national organisation which encourages parks to provide play equipment for children with special needs.
"Fishponds Park ticked all the boxes required to become a PiPA park. I was completing the application form and then the council went and shut the toilets, and accessibility to toilets had been essential. We had the equipment priced up from a PiPA approved provider and it came in within budget. It would have been the only park like that in Bristol and we lost it.
"The next nearest park like that is in Poole in Dorset.
“All that work was completely wasted. It's been a nightmare.
“When we started back in 2015 Fishponds Park was a priority park to be refurbished. The last piece of equipment was put in in the 1960s and at the moment it's not up to scratch. It's still the last park in Bristol to be refurbished.”
The scheme will cost £108,000 which is made up of Section 106 and CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) funding claimed from developers through the old Neighbourhood Partnership, community fundraising and a £1,000 donation from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative.
Brian said there were further disappointment that the Friends were charged £9,000 by the council to move the old fence and put two new panels and a new gate in. The authority also charged them £11,000 for project managing the scheme.
He said: “I said 'You're joking?!'
"The £11,000 could buy us three more pieces of equipment.”
Despite the drawn-out process Brian said the new equipment would still be an asset to families living in Fishponds and will include swings and cradle swings, multi-play unit with slide, ladder and climbing frame and springie for babies up to 11 years.
“I have been told by the council they will start to remove the old equipment on March 1 and the installation of the new play area will start on April 21.
"Further delays will be unacceptable.
"Quite a lot of the Friends over the years have given up and drifted away but there's a core group of us who will not give up. We are going to get this park and it is going to be done this year.
“It will be a marked improvement and will be a good, modern play area and everyone will be happy with it. That's a positive.”
The project is expected to be complete by the middle of May.
Bristol City Council has been approached for comment.
Picture: The old equipment at Fishponds Park is making way for new attractions.