Playscape Answers Your Questions
With the reopening of our village playground, we can imagine that many community members are wondering about Playscape’s progress to build a new playground. We’ve received some very good questions from the community, so we thought we’d answer them here!
Q: You’ve been working on this for over five years; why is it taking so long?
A: Three reasons: ambition, money, and bureaucracy!
This project morphed into a much more strategic project than one we originally signed up for (which is no bad thing!). So the consultation and design phase took longer than a simple exhibition by a play equipment company to tick the “public consultation” box. Eight months of focus groups, an online questionnaire and several exhibitions sought to create a design that was genuinely fit for purpose and inspiring. In the long run we believe this is well worth the investment of time.
Then, there was money: the design is ambitious so we’ve always known we needed to raise a lot, and that does take time. The community has been fantastic supporting the It’s A Knock Out, Abseil, and Fun Runs, plus some very generous donations. We’ve raised over £90k to date, which is an amazing achievement. We could have built sooner if we’d been successful with the Lottery’s Reaching Communities Fund the other year, who praised our inclusive approach and design, but decided they were moving away from funding full capital projects. We do however have a list of other funding bodies and grants that we are going to apply to, but many require us to have gone out to tender, which brings us to bureaucracy…
The real time lag has come in the last 18 months: trying to establish the procurement route (i.e. how we get it built) took longer than we’d hoped, partly as this was new to the team and partly because of the challenges of navigating procedural issues in order to get official approval for the chosen course.
Covid-19 also hasn’t helped matters: some things are always better progressed in person and there has been a delay in instructing the civil engineer– a crucial step as we need to establish if and how we can build over the main sewer that goes directly under the playground. Once this is done, Erect Architecture will be able to finalise the technical drawings and we can go out to tender, and then to apply for grants.
We have nevertheless been working behind the scenes on a large grant application during this time. We view this one as a bonus grant as we’d not identified it to fund the Playscape and although it is over subscribed we fit the criteria well so we’ll have to wait and see.
Q: What is your current money-raising target? Is it achievable? If money is one of the problems preventing progress are there alternative, more practical or less ambitious, plans? Do you have a timescale for completion?
A: As we’ve made clear in our FAQs on the website, we estimate the cost to build the Playscape at about £250k and believe we will be able to afford this with the money we’ve raised to date and grants we’ve identified. We’ve hesitated to launch a fundraising target until we’ve received tenders and there’s no point reducing the scope of the scheme until we’ve exhausted all funding avenues.
Indeed, we would argue that the plans we have are highly practical in the sense that they address many different needs in one design. In terms of timescale, we hope to have the tenders back in 3 months time, but that will mean we’ll probably just miss the next grant round in September, so we’ll apply in December.
Q: Has lockdown affected your plans to decorate the shelter and trim the willow dome?
A: Yes! Like many of us, our committee members have had to make major changes to accommodate lockdown and some things simply had to give. However, you will be pleased to hear that we are handing over the design, colour and some funds to the PC to make progress on the Shelter! I am also going to be down at the rec in the summer working with the SSYI on some copse maintenance work so I’m hoping to give the willow dome a hair cut then. Like the rest of us, it might look untidy, but it’s fine underneath it all!
Q: What happened to the wild flowers you planted last year?
A: They’re still there, at least some of them are! There are some impressive clumps of Tansy coming up at the moment and some ox eye daisy and musk mallow colonies too. Wild flower meadows always take some time to establish, but I am meeting with a rep from On the verge Cambridge to get some yellow-rattle seed (which is helpful as it’s parasitic to grass) and some general advice on how we can increase the wildflower density in the meadows.
Q: I have time to volunteer and would like to help Playscape! Is there something I can do?
A: Ok, I sneaked that question in, but if you’re still reading then please email me if you’re inspired by this project, there’s always something we need help with! And do sign up for our Virtual Shelford Fun Run 2020 at www.shelfordfunrun.co.uk we are still in the serious business of fundraising for this inspirational play space.
Check out our newly updated website www.shelfordplayscape.org/phases for more information.