Monday, 20 March 2017

Disappointment over playground's funding deal

AT RISK: Residents have been urging Solihull Council to help the facility
Picture/Meriden Adventure Playground

FEARS have been raised that a six-month funding package signed off by Solihull Council this evening won't be enough to save Meriden Adventure Playground (MAPA).
A number of local councillors and some of the young people who frequent the site had urged the local authority to step in amid concerns about the long-term future of the award-winning facility.
Supporters said that MAPA had been used by thousands of children since it opened in 2006 and was "very highly-regarded" by the local community.
While the playground has recently achieved charitable status, it has faced ongoing financial pressures. Staff are currently waiting to hear if an application for Big Lottery funding has been successful, with news expected before the end of the month.
The council this evening agreed that a six-month package (worth almost £14,000) would be made available, despite suggestions this wouldn't be a sufficient time frame for the project to become self-sufficient.
Alison Wood, chair of the playground, gave an impassioned speech and voiced concern that a facility which had recently had success at the National Playwork Awards could be cut off "in its prime".
"There is no way on Earth that within six months we could gain enough to be able to run the playground ourselves," she said.
"If the recommended option is decided upon today you need to know that effectively this will close the playground at the end of September."
HELP US NOW: Our story from
earlier this month.
Councillor Chris Williams (Green, Chelmsley Wood) said: "I've seen on a very regular basis the difference that the adventure playground makes to so many families.
"I've rarely had so much contact from residents as I have in the past week - phone and email - about concerns about the playground closing.
"I'm really sad to see that the adventure playground is essentially in crisis, but it doesn't need to be. It's on notice to essentially close if we can't find a funding solution from the council, from a grant awarding body or from somewhere else.
"Yet as I sit here, I don't think there is anybody in this room, around the table or in the audience, who want to see the closure."
Coun Flo Nash (Lab, Kingshurst & Fordbridge) said that ordinary people were in danger of being "deprived" of a community asset.
"People feel safe knowing their children are going to a playground where they know they're going to be looked after," she said.
Fellow ward councillor Debbie Evans (UKIP) said: "All I can think about is that we're obsessing over money, not people.
"MAPA saves this council a lot of money in social work, in teaching time, it feeds families, it gives out food parcels. It does a raft of other measures, it's not just an adventure playground."
Councillor Ken Hawkins, cabinet member for the environment, housing and regeneration, acknowledged the playground was a valuable resource and said efforts would be made in the coming months to help MAPA develop a business plan. He suggested the lack of any such proposal at present would make it difficult for the local authority to commit additional funds.
"I'm not entirely happy about this [decision]...but also I have to take into consideration the financial constraints and budgets of this council."

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