Sunday, 16 October 2011

Chalkhill Park delayed but on its way, with other play facilities possible

I think my readers deserve some (fairly) good news in the midst of the recession gloom and the closure of half our libraries.

I attended a meeting last week in my role as a school governor regarding the proposed new Chalkhill Park. The Chalkhill Residents' Association have been concerned about the park and a proposed Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) in St David's Close on the estate. The Chalkhill Pupil School Council had written to ward councillors to expression concern about the lack of progress on the park and had been told work would commence this month. In fact nothing seemed to have happened and the weeds were getting taller and taller.

We were told that work was behind schedule by 4-6 weeks and may fall further behind if soft planting is delayed by poor weather. However we were assured  that the park should open in May 2012. Bids are still awaited from contractors who will construct the park.

The residents' concerns about the budget for the project were not fully answered. It appears to have reduced from £1.3m to something over £0.8m and there was some confusion over whether the money was from planning gain following the building of Wembley ASDA on a section of the estate, and whether the money had originally been held by Metropolitan Housing Association, the managers of the estate, and late handed over to the Council.  If the latter is the case there may be an issue over the reduction in the amount.

Putting that aside, we were assured that the promised children's playgrounds (one for older children and one for younger) and an exercise area for adults would be built. There would also be a 'kick-about' area rather than a formal football pitch and a wildlife nature garden.

Plan of the new park (this may have been revised)
Residents asked questions about the 'water feature' that had incorporated into the plans. They had never asked for one and it appeared to be an expensive item. They said that if anything had to go because of budget constraints the water feature should be abandoned. It appears to have been added as a landscape features that would extend the vista from Brent Town Hall steps, down the avenue of trees, and into the park. It was unclear whether it was purely ornamental or something the children might play in: echoes of the fiasco over Lady Di's Memorial Water Feature! 

As by 2013 the Town Hall will have been replaced by the new Civic Centre, and may have been converted into a hotel, it does appear to be redundant. It would also use electricity to generate the pumps which would involve an ongoing cost. We were told that solar panel electricity generation for the pump wouldn't be suitable. Not very green...

When the MUGA came under discussion we were told that existing installations at Poplar Close Youth Centre and Chalkhill School's play area which was shared with the community, made a new one unnecessary. However Gerry Kiefer, the new head of parks and sports services, said that she would like to 'start a conversation' about St David's Close open space. Previously that had not been developed because it was not overlooked by housing and therefore deemed unsafe for unsupervised play. However, the newly built flats in the close were now occupied and this objection no longer stood.

Ms Kiefer offered to look at the possibility of:

1. Erecting goal posts for a football pitch (size to be decided after a survey), levelling the surface and marking out the pitch. Future mowing and marking out would have to be borne by the users who were expected to be the Chalkhill Wanderers football team.
2. Restoring the overgrown BMX cycling course with help from local youth.
3. Looking at the possibility of building a skateboarding facility in St David's Close.
4. She also undertook to look at the Poplar Close MUGA, in particular the state of the pitches and whether the floodlights were working.

The meeting was facilitated by Councillor Shafique Choudhary (Barnhill ward councillor) at the request of Kathleen Jackson, Chair of Chalkhill Residents' Association.

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