Blame it on the badgers: Southend play area reopens after two years and £100,000 with ‘basically nothing there’

Residents are demanding answers after Southend Council spent £100,000 on redeveloping a park, only for it to reopen with almost no play equipment.

The play area on Sidmouth Avenue, off Rochford Road, was expected to reopen with major improvements but has instead opened its gates with limited play equipment and a large empty space.

Puzzled residents who live near to the park are now calling for answers.

Chris Jarvis, 40, who lives on Sidmouth Avenue, said: “They just had the park done, it took two years from when they first closed it off but basically there is nothing in there. We were promised loads of stuff and the council told us that £20,000 worth of new equipment had been purchased.”

He added: “All of this stuff is about five to nine metres from each other but then there is this great big area of around 20 to 30 sq metres, and it is just empty.

“There is significantly less there now than there was before.”

Councillor Carole Mulroney, who oversees environment and planning, said the park is a small neighbourhood playground, which by its nature has less equipment than in larger parks in the borough.

She said: “The council invested £100,000 to redevelop the park, however a considerable amount of this was spent on addressing issues associated with a badger sett in the area, including environmental reports, obtaining a licence from Natural England and installing an underground barrier on three sides of the playground.

“As part of this investment, the council also installed one set of flat swings, one set of cradle swings, one see-saw and one cone climber. In addition to the new equipment, one multi-play unit was retained. All of the new equipment has new safer surfacing under it also.

“The equipment has a requirement to have what is termed ‘free space’ around it and, this can make the play area appear to be quite open. We will continue to monitor further funding opportunities to evaluate whether or not we can potentially add further equipment to the park at a later date.”

Ward councillors Daniel Cowan and David McGlone met with residents on Friday.

Mr Cowan said: “This play area has been enjoyed by families for years and they’re understandably upset that after almost two years of work the equipment is so sparse.

“I’m thankful that officers agree with me and will be seeking further equipment when budgets allow and I hope that residents are consulted on the type of equipment.

“I’m making enquiries as to what temporary improvements can be made for seating and in landscaping whilst we secure new funding.

“Residents are right to query this and I fully support their aims.”

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter