Wandsworth swaps play park entry fee for re-kit savings

A local authority has abandoned plans to charge an entry fee at an adventure playground that had been branded as a "tax on play".

Instead, Wandsworth aims to re-kit the adventure playground in Battersea Park, at a cost of £200,000. This will enable the site to go unstaffed. The south London authority angered locals with plans to charge each child a £2.50 entry fee (HW, 11 November 2011).

"This equipment will conform to all the latest safety standards and replace the playground's ageing hotchpotch of wooden structures such as castles and zip wires," said a spokesman.

Current upkeep costs of £225,000 in staffing, repairs and maintenance would drop to around £10,000 because the new kit would be more robust, enabling the site to be unsupervised.

"We floated an idea to pilot charges. The councillors listened, looked at a range of options and did an informal consultation last autumn. Locals did not want to pay and we have given them what they want."

Plans will go to another public consultation and new kit such as rope swings, aerial walkways and tube slides could be in place this summer. Wandsworth manages more than 200 play areas and has spent £2.5m on upkeep in four years.

Councillor Kathy Tracey said: "We must reduce our spending by £70m over four years and maintaining the status quo is not an option. This is a coherent, sustainable way of keeping the playground open and free to use while making savings."

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