Big Park Project Phase 1 feedback survey

Thank you to everyone who completed our recent survey on the first phase of equipment for the Big Park Project – we always want to hear what the community says as this is what has led our project to be successful so far. By getting your views, it enables us to make sure that what is being done will meet a genuine need. It also really helps to back us up when we are applying for grants to show there is a demand and that this playground will have a real impact.

Just as a reminder – all of the members of the project are volunteers and use their free time to support the project. Many of us are parents ourselves of children within a wide age range, from babies to older teenagers. We know how important play equipment is and we also know how hard it is to create a space that is just as fun for toddlers as it is for teenagers. This project was never going to be able to cover all age ranges, but we do have plans for doing other projects specifically aimed at older age groups after the Big Park Project is finished. Keep reading to find out more!

We thought it would be helpful to summarise the responses we have received so please find these below as well as sections covering other comments we received.

 

Phase 1 equipment

Clearly the new equipment has been well received! Of the main users of the playground i.e. children, parents and grandparents of children under the age of 12, 93% said they prefer the new equipment. That is an overwhelming response. Furthermore, 81% of all respondents said they would visit the playground more now the equipment has been upgraded and 50% of respondents said they think they will travel outside of Coggeshall less to visit other play areas. This is a fantastic figure as it hopefully encourages people to use other local facilities and it reduces petrol consumption from people travelling to other areas specifically to visit playgrounds.

One of the most important points we have made throughout the project is that we think there is added value from the Big Park Project. We hope it will benefit more than just the children using it and their parents or grandparents – we hope it will mean people visit local shops or go for lunch at one of our fantastic pubs or restaurants. It seems that others agree as 97% of respondents said they think the new equipment benefits the community in Coggeshall.

When we started the project a number of years ago (it has been going on for a long time as it is so much work!), the group obviously never anticipated that we would all go into a lockdown and not be allowed to travel beyond our local area. Given this, we wanted to find out if having this new equipment so close by would help and 66% of respondents said they found it valuable in the recent circumstances with COVID and lockdowns. Some people said they didn’t use it because they were shielding, it was too busy, they were worried about the rules etc. But for so many people to have found it to be a helpful local space is really great to hear. The last year has been pretty hard and we think it is important for children to have a place to go and have fun nearby – we feel lucky we managed to get the phase 1 equipment installed during this time.

Mud

This needs a whole section given how many comments we got about it but also how strongly we feel about it too.

Drainage has always been a problem on the Rec and this was a big focus of our brief. The overall design addresses the mud by ensuring that all of the main equipment (not including the mound and a separate trail as technically children shouldn’t need to go on the grass there) would be accessed via all weather surfacing. Rubber mulch would be ideal but this is incredibly expensive so we chose a mixture of rubber mulch and bark.

We had hoped to do the whole project in one go, but COVID meant a number of grant applications were paused and so the project was split into two, allowing us to get the junior section done first. The toddler and inclusive section actually has a path going from the gate directly onto the new equipment and a hard surface. This means that when phase 2 is done, you won’t have to go on the grass to get to the equipment unless you choose to! So you will be able to walk in through the gate, park a buggy next to it (if you have one) in a specific space for pushchairs, then walk through the toddler and inclusive areas to play there or go into the junior area. There will be another trail of items in the grass from near the gate going right round to the middle, but the aim is to stay on this equipment and not end up in the grass! At the moment all the footfall is going through the grass and over the mound so once phase 2 is done, that will be massively reduced and you could even wear trainers rather than wellies when visiting the playground in the winter.

Unfortunately, we did have an incredibly wet winter and the work was only finished in December, just at peak mud time. As soon as the equipment was finished and signed off, the playground opened up and it was busier than it has ever been before. That meant it got very muddy, very quickly and it didn’t have a chance to recover until early March. If we can get phase 2 done before the next winter then this shouldn’t be such a big problem but even if we can’t, the grass will have had some time to recover and really settle in so it shouldn’t be so awful.

Phase 2 equipment

When the design for the Big Park Project was selected back in 2019, it was intended to be done as a single project as mentioned above. Instead, we had to split it into two because of COVID and grants being paused. This means we cannot change what is in phase 2 at this point unless we go back through the lengthy procurement process. Some comments from individuals expressed a view that there was already enough equipment for younger children in Coggeshall so phase 2 should be focused on something else. One person even asked us to do climbing walls, zip wires, outdoor gym equipment and a MUGA. Clearly that won’t fit within the space of the fenced playground and all of that could easily add up to £200k!

An important point we want to make is around who the target audience is for this playground. Based on some responses we got, we think many people don’t realise that a lot of the equipment isn’t necessarily about younger children, but is actually to make the playground more inclusive and accessible. We always planned to ensure that there is equipment for children who for whatever reason, couldn’t play on the previous equipment or in the other playgrounds in Coggeshall. Sadly, there are simply not enough accessible playgrounds in the local area and we didn’t want to add to that. In the old playground, there was absolutely no equipment that would meet the needs of a child with mobility issues. In phase 2, we will see a number of new items of equipment installed that will mean children of all abilities will be able to enjoy the space.

It was quickly realised that the Big Park Project couldn’t cater for absolutely everyone due to budget and space years ago when planning first began so our group did its best to make it as broad as possible, but we knew that other projects outside of the children’s playground would be needed to meet the needs of others and we will hopefully be able to start work on these when phase 2 of the Big Park Project is done.

Skate ramp

We know there is currently an ongoing consultation about a skate ramp (and had been approached about this a couple of months ago to see if we could use Big Park Project money to pay for it) but that is completely separate to the Big Park Project. We appreciate comments on a skate ramp were encouraged for this survey by a couple of individuals but unfortunately they are just not relevant as the Council decided around 4-5 years ago that this project should explicitly not include a skate ramp – this was reiterated to our group several times. There is a Facebook group now for anyone who wants to get involved in getting a skate ramp for Coggeshall and we would encourage people to be part of that group if they want to see it happen.

For older teenagers, there is not enough space within the fenced playground to provide really decent equipment for them. For larger or more exciting pieces of equipment, you need quite a large area and while the Big Park Project playground is a decent size, once you try to work in some slightly bigger pieces of equipment, that was nearly all we would have been able to fit in (remember – we have to stick to the area within the fences as that is what is in scope for this project). For example, a zip wire could have taken up nearly 40-50% of the entire space. One piece of good news is that the Bovis development will have new equipment targeted at teenagers including a zip wire! However, we think there should still be more and depending on the results of an upcoming survey on wider recreation, we expect our next project may be focused on facilities for them – if we can find space elsewhere in the Rec or somewhere else in Coggeshall to do this, it will be much better than trying to squeeze one or two items into the existing fenced playground.

For adults, there is actually quite a lot that has been identified in the Parish Council’s Open Spaces Action Plan and some of the money coming through from the housing developments in Coggeshall is likely to go to projects that adults will benefit from. However, again we hope our upcoming recreation survey will help to identify what adults want and we can see what we can do to meet those needs. A while ago outdoor fitness equipment was raised and discussed by the Parish Council but unfortunately this wasn’t taken further and funding was a big reason for it. If our survey finds that this is a popular idea in the community, then we can start researching it in more detail!

Phase 3

Once the toddler and accessible equipment is installed, the plan for finishing off the Big Park Project is to extend the fence on the east and west sides and include more seating areas and landscaping. This will mean more people can go to the area who don’t want to necessarily play on the equipment! It is a beautiful space and we want everyone to be able to enjoy it. So new fencing will be put in, as well as seating such as benches, large logs and also lots of planting.

We have been clear about the Big Park Project trying to be as inclusive as possible and there is no reason why adults can’t enjoy it too. By adding new access points at the east and west sides, people will be able to enter the new seating areas without going through the playground so whether you want to go for a play or a picnic, you will be welcome and there will be space for you.

What next?

As mentioned in the summary above, we need to finish fundraising for phase 2 but after that we can start thinking about what project we want to take on next. The phase 3 fencing and landscaping will be something we can work on while we plan the next project. This is why we will be doing a Coggeshall-wide survey asking what recreational facilities people want to see. The results from that will help to guide us on what people feel is really lacking and needed in Coggeshall. It will be very open and will ask about a wide range of different options – we want to be led by the results rather than give a few narrow options. Our group is very focused on meeting the community needs rather than just benefitting a small section of Coggeshall.

Going back to who our group is – there are around 10 active volunteers working on the Big Park Project. If more people joined our group, we would be able to get much more done and in a shorter space of time. So if there is something you feel really strongly about, tell us! It might be that the rest of the community agrees with you and this will be what we start working towards next. Fundraising and delivering a large project is tough work and we can see the majority of people responding to our survey understand this. However, we do have to sometimes be very realistic – we cannot do everything that is asked of us, and we can’t do it all at the speed that people may want us to move at. But we have shown that we can commit to a plan and will do our absolute best to deliver it.