Worried parents have slammed the revamp of Hove Park playground as an “eighties throwback” and fear it could now be replicated all over the city.
Hove Park was the first playground to get a makeover under a £3 million scheme to revamp 45 playgrounds in Brighton and Hove.
It got one of the biggest allocations, with £142,000 spent on replacing all the old equipment with new castle-themed pieces, swings, slides and climbing frames.
But parents say the equipment is often too hard for smaller kids, too easy for older kids, and natural materials and surfaces have been replaced with metal and rubber.
They are also concerned that low maintenance costs have been prioritised over quality.
Now almost 200 people have signed a petition calling on the council to consult more closely with families before any new upgrades.
Rebecca Graber, a psychology lecturer whose three-year-old daughter uses the park, organised the petition.
She said playgrounds were important spaces for children to develop social skills, such as negotiation and sharing – and the right equipment is crucial to this.
She said: “There’s a danger of this being seen as a middle class mum complaining when we should be happy that the council is splashing money on all the playgrounds.
“But I think it’s really important to be able to look at the quality of the provision and whether it’s meeting the needs of the children.
“One really major change is a reduction in natural surfaces and sensory play, like grass and sandpits, which are really important for motor development.
“There’s also been a reduction in risky play structures. The slides are narrow and children can do the climbing frames really easily, so they get bored.
“Parents say there’s nothing here for my children once they get past the age of three or four, so it’s very difficult to keep everyone happy.
“It’s like an 80s throwback. I think we should complain and I think if you go down there with small children you will see within five minutes the issues with this equipment.
“If this is going to be such a wholesale change across the city, where are children going to go if all the playgrounds are basically like this?”
However, the council said that the equipment had been designed with a wide age range in mind and had followed specialist professional advice.
A council spokesman said: “The work has improved accessibility for all children, including youngsters with disabilities.
“We have been working with the Hove Park Friends Group to upgrade the playground, and they are happy with the installation.
“The work at Hove Park is part of a £3 million investment in 45 of our playgrounds over the coming year.
“This is without parallel virtually anywhere else in the country. It’s really great news for our city and our children.
“All are being designed to offer fun play opportunities to as wide a range of age groups as possible.
“Playground design is a specialist area. We will continue to follow specialist professional advice to implement the best safe educational play for children.
“Equipment has been chosen that is both fit for purpose and low maintenance.”
Meanwhile, work to upgrade one of the next playgrounds on the list, Blaker’s Park, has taken more than twice as long as expected after a surprise subterranean discovery.
The council spokesman said: “We’re sorry for the delays to the Blaker’s Park work. When we started digging we unexpectedly discovered large amounts of concrete underneath the playground.
“This has meant work has taken a lot longer than expected. But it should be finished by the end of the month.”
Moan… Moan… Moan… Moan… Moan……
Moan if nothings done – Moan when something is done… Moan…
Good old council.
The equipment was personally designed by BHCC’s resident toddler, Cllr Lloyd
So the council hasn’t consulted once again. And when what is delivered gets criticised, the council states that it is doing a great job, their work has been delivered by experts and the people using the service are wrong. All sound familiar? A story that keeps being repeated….
B&H Council. We deserve better. Change or special measures….
Special measures such as resignation.
You would have though that officers and the administration would have learned by now that consultation is key to getting things right, (even if you don’t like what you hear). Simply ignoring the electorate and telling them your doing great is an act of arrogance, stupidity and self harm.
I’m happy to see new equipment in Victoria park but it’s pretty much identical to what was there already. No thought behind it at all!
Council consultant some fringe group (not end users) . Council blows millions of pounds on scheme. End users pissed as its inappropriate and badly designed.
This sounds really familiar.
So I get they want to let disabled kids be able to play, all behind that but that doesn’t mean you make every single part of the design, designed for them.
I remember as a kid in the 90s, the massive rope climbing frame and fairly high structures was great, sure you may fall but that’s learning.
If that’s all been replaced with this then really… Wow. Get a grip BHCC
People never happy especially the toffee nose ones
My kid is 3 years old and gets bored of the new equipment quickly. There are a couple of nice additions, like the seasaw thing and a roundabout that actually turns, but to remove a big climbing frame and put in a tiny one, remove a multi slide structure with one that only has a little slide, replace baby swings (that there was nothing wrong with) for ones that are so low and heavy I can’t push him high enough to keep him happy and worse, he slows himself down by dragging his feet on the floor they are so slow? I almost understand removing the zip wire which is soooo much fun as it kept being damaged. Some of you are saying, moaning, toffee nosed people, but really, consult a 3 or 7 or 12 year old at the park (and the parents), you will find the majority are not happy with many of the changes. I just hope the do better with other playgrounds, I for one keep having to walk a long way to take my son elsewhere as other, smaller playgrounds have better equipment for him now (that’s right, I’m not some toffee nosed car driver that can easily chose loads of other playgrounds to go off too).
Bring back the witch’s hat, plank swing and giant slide. Kids will love them.
As the above comment said the new swings at Hove park are so low it’s impossible to actually use them now without your kid’s feet hitting the ground!
We were really excited about the refurb but then I had heard from friends that the new equipment is not much fun, ok for pre schoolers but not much else. Then I saw pictures and was confused. They removed more than half the playground equipment (that was all well loved) but hardly put anything back and the new equipment is just not suitable for adventurous children over 5. We are unlikely to bother visiting now as I don’t drive so it’s not worth the walk.
It was generous of the council to offer a budget but they obviously didn’t consult enough. I’m disappointed that the park friends group couldn’t do more to prevent this as my local park friends group managed to stop the council replacing our equipment with something sub standard a few years ago. I was part of the meeting. A group of local parents who use the park daily ended up convincing the man from the council to save a large practically new triple slide off the old equipment (recently replaced and expensive) and integrate it into the new item. Also to make a bespoke design to suit the demographic instead of just go with the climbing frame from the catalogue which was not suitable.
The adults at the council sitting at desks just don’t think of these things. They don’t use the park, may not even necessarily have ever been to a park, or this particular park, with a child and they have a budget to spend or lose and they just select from a catalogue. That’s when you end up with this.
What a shame.