Public play parks in Northampton in managed decline as council confirms badly damaged equipment will be removed and not replaced

St Crispin's Park
St Crispin's Park

Unsafe and badly broken slides, swings and roundabouts and other play equipment in Northampton's public spaces are no longer being fixed, a report reveals.

The borough council briefing paper says neither the contractor Enterprise nor Northampton Borough Council has any budget to replace severely damaged rides in parks and open spaces on housing estates - or build new play areas.

Enterprise is paid to carry out general maintenance and minor repairs. However, play equipment that becomes worn through use or age or is severely damaged by vandalism, may not be replaced by the contractor.

The report to the Guildhall councillors on the scrutiny committee says: "If the cost to repair or replace a piece of equipment is substantial, then the equipment may be removed and not replaced."

Newly equipped play areas are still being installed in some parks and open spaces, but only if they fall within a catchment area where Section 106 funding is made available.

There are also “Friends Groups” that raise funding through events, grants and donations for additional equipment to add to existing play areas.

It is theoretically possible to replace play equipment using General Fund Capital monies earmarked for public open spaces, but that money has to be spread across cemeteries, parks and other areas.

As well as minor repairs, Enterprise is responsible for the cleaning the play areas and removing litter.

Complaints of broken glass, build-up of litter, overflowing litter bins or damaged equipment will be forwarded to Enterprise, who will arrange for the play area to be inspected within one working day to resolve any problems. Annual safety inspections are also carried out.

Council officers say that more play areas have started to built in Northampton in the last two years.

But the report concludes that the borough council can do little apart from manage the current play areas.

The officer says "In some cases, this management can involve the removal of some equipment, as and when it comes to the end of its safe maintainable life span.

"Currently, the only areas that seem to be having new play areas installed are where new builds are taking place or new builds that are making Section 106 monies available."