7 March 2019
Cllr Josh Williams discusses goings on with regards to the future of the ERAPA play area.
I'm not old enough to be sure, but I believe that the play equipment was put in in the 1980s and was designed by the ERAPA (East Reading Adventure Playground Association) group specifically to be inclusive for all children, including those with special needs. It has two sections that are wheelchair accessible: the climbing frame/walkway and the roundabout.
Sadly, the equipment that was purchased 30-odd years ago was non-standard and the Council's Parks team are now unable to maintain it; parts can no longer be sourced, and eventually it will need to be removed for health and safety reasons (two slides have already been taken away). When this happens and all the equipment is removed, the Council intends to simply grass over the area.
A 'ballpark' estimate from the Council's Parks team to replace the equipment at the same location would be around £50,000 (note – this is not an actual quote based on a real design, but it gives residents and the Council an idea of roughly what we are asking in financial terms).
This equipment is the play area for those residents who live in Newtown – not a wealthy area and access to good parks and play equipment is so important to young families.
The ERAPA play equipment is particularly good for the younger children and is used (anecdotally) a great deal more. The local Pakistani Community Centre make great use of the ERAPA play equipment, as does the local community (not-for-profit) nursery.
Finally, of course, there is only one other piece of wheelchair accessible play equipment in Reading that was designed to be inclusive for all children. An accessible play area means that parents in a wheelchair can join their young children on the play equipment and that parents of children in a chair can take them to the park with their friends knowing they can all join in.
Note – the play area on the Wokingham Road side does have some equipment for younger children but this is entirely within a sandpit area. There is no access for disabled parents or children.
We sincerely hope that the Council will change their minds and work with local charities and the community to design a new play area and install it when the existing one has to be removed.
There is always money available (https://www.inyourarea.co.uk/news/reading-councils-accounts-blunder-costs-likely-to-hit-400k/, https://www.inyourarea.co.uk/news/reading-council-spends-more-than-4million-in-dispute-over-equal-pay/) and RBC have announced a £30 million capital spend for the new Sports and Leisure provider in Reading (and have already spent £182,000 on consultants), so it's about priorities. With so many signatures (over 1000!) in just a week, it’s pretty clear where local people think priorities should be.
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