Play and Recreation Park

Play and Recreation Park

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2023 Re-launch Celebration

Following a long process to close the former Adventure Play Park charity so that the Parish Council could legitimately renegotiate the lease and fundraise for further development, the Parish Council were pleased present the official re-launch celebration on 22 April 2023.

In his opening remarks, the Chair of the Parish Council, Richard Belson, thanked all those attending the launch, the sponsors (Mid Suffolk District Council, Suffolk County Council, Town Farm Charity) and Parish Councillors, particularly Brian Kinnair who led on this project, and the Clerk for the preliminary work required on the charity closure and the lease re-negotiation. He also thanked the residents of The Acorns as it was the Community Infrastructure Levy received by the Parish Council as a result of this housing development that kickstarted the project with £30,000 along with £14,000 of Parish Council funding. This facilitated the bids for match funding totalling £30,000 from the sponsors.

The new play area signage was then proudly unveiled by Matilda & Chloe, pupils of Walsham le Willows CEVC primary school, who came up with the wording for the sign. Their fellow pupil Rima who provided the artwork, was unfortunately not able to be there to join them. All the local children in attendance proceeded to give the play equipment a work out and made short work of the free ice cream generously provided by the Gardens Weekend Committee.

The Parish Council have been very pleased to see the increased use of the Play Area, particularly by younger children, since the new equipment was installed.

The Parish Council is always looking for volunteers for help with maintaining the play area. This usually take the form of two or three mornings a year where people meet to work through the minor jobs that always need doing. There is something for all and it is a nice social event too.

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Children enjoying the new sand pit in the Walsham Play Park

The Lease of land  in Townhouse Road from Old Town Trust to the Parish Council as Tenants was signed in 1986 for a period of 28 years and was then reviewed and extended until 2035.  The old lease was also the governing document for the Play Council, a registered charity (no. 293364) and reflected the fact that until 2021, the Parish Council held the land known as the Play Park, upon trust for the Play Council charity.  At that time the Trustees of the Play Council undertook development work and received an annual grant from the Parish Council for day to day running costs.

The Play Council charity had emerged from the original Youth Forum which did such great work putting the Millennium Village Appraisal into action. Local children were consulted and following successful grant applications, including a £50,000 Playbuilder grant, the Skatepark and Multi Use Games Area were built.

The extremely enthusiastic and dedicated committee expended a lot of effort over a few months prior to the re-opening and the improved Play Area was opened during the Open Gardens Weekend of August 30 & 31st 2009 by trustees of the Play Council charity.

Parents and Children enjoying the inaugural party for the opening of Walsham Play Park

More recently, further development had been frustrated because it proved impossible to maintain a full committee of Play Council trustees as required by the Charity Commissioners under the charity’s governing document.

From April 1st 2018, as well as providing the funding for day to day running costs, the Parish Council assumed direct responsibility from the Play Council for day to day management.

Given that the Parish Council is legally not allowed to be in receipt of charitable funding as it is not, and cannot be, a charity, and the Play Council was technically non-functioning, an alternative solution was needed. Once it was established that sufficient non-charitable funds  for further development could be raised directly by the Parish Council , it was agreed that the Parish Council was able to take on development responsibilities directly.

A lengthy process then ensued whereby the Charity Commission was asked for consent to the amendment of the Play Council Constitution in order to allow the charitable assets to be passed to the Parish Council as a non-charitable body. People were found to temporarily take on the role of trustees so that the charity could be formally dissolved and closed. The alternative was that the assets would have been passed to another charity with similar charitable objectives but outside the village because, of the other charities in the village that met the criteria, none was prepared to take on the management and development of the Play Area. As this project progressed a fantastic group volunteers continued their work behind the scenes on further consultation, on fundraising from local organisations and on getting the support of the school and sports club for future fundraising efforts. This fed into a new plan for phased development which was used by the Parish Council to raise further funding.

Children enjoying the new new slide, tunnel and the Punch and Judy Show at in the opening of the new Walsham Play Park

Minutes of the Play Council AGM held on 29th May 2020 document the reappointment of a quorum of Play Council committee members (trustees), resolutions to change the constitution to allow the assets of the charity to be transferred to the Parish Council, and to finally dissolve and close the charity.  Following confirmation from the Charity Commission on 25th August 2020, that the Play Council Charity had been closed, it was possible to start to engaging with the former charity’s bank to transfer remaining cash assets to the Parish Council reconciled these to the Treasurer’s year end accounts which were independently examined.

After further lengthy legal process, the  Parish Council finally signed a new lease with Old Town Trust on 8th September 2021. Redevelopment of the new Play Area commenced in October 2022 and was completed within a couple of weeks. New equipment has been installed for younger children and older children.  The final total cost was £76k ( £63,334 after the reclaim of VAT). This leaves approximately £10k, monies previously  ringfenced and earmarked by the Parish Council, for maintenance work on the pre-existing timber frame equipment.

Funding was received from various sources.

Neighbourhood CIL (excl vat)30,000.00
Earmarked funds6,000.00
Bank balance of dissolved charity (ring fenced)8,000.00
Town Farm Charity3,000.00
District Cllr. Rick Meyer Locality Budget1,000.00
County Cllr. Jessica Fleming1,690.00
Mid-Suffolk CIL9,315.00
Mid-Suffolk Grants Team * (based on 22.7% of 65,935.74 as quoted for the bid )15,000.00
TOTAL 74,005.00

As with all community working groups, a constant flow of new members is needed to keep things moving forward. If you would like to be involved with the Play Council Volunteers who work together to undertake practical tasks to realise the development plans agreed with the Parish Council, then please get in touch with the Parish Clerk to register your interest.

It is envisaged that the volunteers will be asked to meet two to three times a year on a saturday morning to work on small jobs that need doing around the play area.

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Parish Clerk

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