To receive any questions relating to items on the Agenda from members of the public and replies thereto.
Note: A maximum of 30 minutes is allowed for this item.
Mr Mark Hiscock, representing local residents and referring to item 7 on the agenda asked why is the 10 year plan being presented to you today as a discussion document and not as a report seeking the Committee to recommend adoption as was originally planned? Does this mean that the 10 year plan can be deferred for a decision until the overwhelming objections and protests have been forgotten?
Why is the 10 year plan allowing all dogs in the future to mix with young children when for decades the children have been able to play in a safe and secure dog free environment?
Why is the 10 year plan allowing dogs to toilet in areas designated for young children when for decades dogs have been physically prohibited?
Why is the 10 year plan ignoring the medical risks associated with young children coming into close contact with dog and fox faeces? Nothing has changed in the dangers of contracting Toxocariasis, E.coli and Hepatitis.
Why is the 10 year plan ignoring the statistics that dog bites and attacks have increased by 76% over the last decade?
Why is the 10 year plan ignoring the fact that paedophiles are attracted to open young children play areas and parks? It is quite rare for such a person to enter a fully fenced enclosed area as they are restricted in law (if on the sex offenders register) to be found in such places. However, open spaces are intended for use by all persons and not just young children in particular.
Why is the 10 year plan ignoring the fact that since the introduction of fully fenced young children play parks, paedophilia activity in them has become rare? I suggest that if the fences come down the prevention of that crime will be lost.
The 10 year plan claims that it will encourage freedom for children but why is it ignoring the fears of parents and carers that partially fenced young children’s play parks will have the complete opposite effect? In fully fenced young children’s play parks the children are contained in a safe and secure environment to run, play, roam and experiment in without very close supervision by their carer’s. Partially fenced young children’s play parks require very close supervision so as to prevent the children from running off or being approached by strange dogs or people.
Is the committee aware that Mr Scully and I had a conversation in February 2017 where he claimed that the 10 year plan was solely being introduced to make savings in the Council budget? How much expenditure is projected to be saved over the next 10 years with the plan (including the funding for the removal of unsuitable old fences) compared to the expenditure of repairing and renewing all the existing fences?
Why has Mr Scully been allowed to implement the 10 year plan at the River Drive, Cullompton young children’s play park as the plan is here before you today for discussion and it was not policy in February 2017?
Is the committee aware that Mr Scully sanctioned the removal of two sides of the fully fenced four sided River Drive young children’s play park because it was deemed to be beyond economical repair? He refused to repair or replace the two sides of the fence under the 10 year plan although it was not Council policy in February 2017.
Is the committee aware that since the very popular River Drive young children’s play park has become partially fenced the users and carer’s have drifted away from using it? This may also occur at all the other MDDC parks if the 10 year plan is implemented.
From enquiries made by myself the main reasons for the lack of use at the play park since being partially fenced are:
a) People do not like strange dogs mixing with their children in case something untoward happens.
b) People are not happy with dog’s toileting in amongst the play equipment (whether picked up or not).
c) The carers have to be in close supervision of the younger children because it is now easy for them to run off out of the park into danger. The two imaginary fences in the park do not work!!! I have tried to explain to my 3 year old grandson not to go past them but he looks at me and runs.
d) The carers know that they must supervise their children, but by being so close to them all the time the children are being denied their freedom. This is the exact opposite to what the open space plan is claiming.
e) Carers with two children (one walking and one not) state that the open space puts them in the position of which child do they leave and which one do they run after. At least with a full fence the children cannot 'escape'.
Is the committee aware of the following facts relating to young children’s play park’s
a) Official figures from NHS England in 2016 showed that 7,227 hospital admissions were made for dog attacks, compared with 4,110 in 2006, with under-10s the most likely to be admitted.
b) Children aged under 10 were most likely to be admitted to hospital after being attacked by a dog, with 1,159 requiring inpatient treatment.
c) Many organisations including ROSPA are now recommending that play parks for the 10 year olds and under ought to be fenced. The fencing creates a safe environment for the children to play in and that the adults are confident there are no hidden dangers.
d) By removing the fences it is increasing the danger and putting the children in contact with loose dogs that appear to be biting more frequently.
e) The 10 year open spaces plan is not new as it has been tried in many parts of the western world and has been rejected by councils, parents and carers alike.
Is the committee aware of a well published recent case of a U turn in open spaces in Christchurch, Dorset where the council refurbished it’s very popular community young children's play park. The local council spent a total of £50,000 on refurbishment, but decided to demolish and not replace the parks full fencing. The council came under so much pressure and protest from the public that the council had to make extra plans to erect a full fence costing £10,000’s.
Can MDDC afford to make such expensive mistakes on their play parks if it goes with the new 10 year plan?
The Director of Operations explained that in the first instance the paper had been put forward for discussion, in order that policy could be developed.
With regard to questions 6 and 7 concerning paedophiles the Director informed Mr Hiscock that he could reassure the local community that he had made contact with serving Police Officers both locally and nationally and had found that the comments made were not supported from either a policing or community safety aspect. They may be Mr Hiscock’s views but they were not supported by current serving officers.
Cllr Barry Warren of Willand Parish Council asked how many people were on the Sex Offenders Register in the area. The Director of Operations responded that he did not consider this question to be appropriate and that precautions were in place, he informed Mr Warren that he considered it unnecessary to scaremonger in this way.
Cllr Warren then said referring to item 7 on the agenda that un-fencing play areas were referred to at paragraph 7.2.2 and repair would appear to be a last resort as per paragraph 7.2.3.
Paragraph 8.2 refers to a 156 page document “Play England – Making Space for Play” and paragraph 8.3 uses the words ‘Fenced play areas are no longer considered best practice in play design; clearly there may be circumstances when retaining fencing is appropriate, yet the clear direction of travel is to provide unfenced play areas where there is less reliance on traditional play furniture’.
Have members had the opportunity of studying Making Space for Play in detail? Some of the research quoted is 10 years old. I have been unable to find words to mirror the aforementioned officer assertion.
On page 28 it says ‘that the play environment should not be dictated or reduced by concerns about maintenance’.
On page 32 it says ‘It is important to think carefully about the use of fencing, which is often installed partly to keep out dogs. Parents with young children may value fencing around play areas, but older children may be discouraged from usage, and assume that the fenced area is not for them’
Page 68 contains a section on Boundaries and Fencing and the first paragraph deals with factors which may not make fencing a good option. The second paragraph states ‘on the other hand although there is no legal requirement or recommendation for fencing in industry standards, a barrier may sometimes be desirable. Parents and carers – especially of younger children – may appreciate the sense of security which a fenced boundary creates to keep their children safe from straying outside the play space or from dogs.’
Reference is made to ‘industry standards’ – Do Members put any great value on industry standards when it comes to the safety of our childrenand their protection from potential harm?
I suspect that there may be some residents of high rise flats who may have some views on ‘industry standards’ in relation to cladding!
We have been told that there is no policy to remove fencing from around play areas in Mid Devon in spite of it having happened.
Will Members please give real thought to refusing to adopt this section of the report and to have fencing repaired or reinstated rather than removed on what is only a cost cutting exercise?
Any decisions should only be taken after meaningful and honest consultation with the local residents who know their area. It only takes one child to wander off, be attacked by a dog or abducted to negate all the cost cutting on a few yards of fencing.
Alderman M A Lucas, referring to item 6 on the agenda highlighted that there may be a clash with agenda item 7 regarding the enclosure of primary age play-grounds as within the report there was a reference to reducing enclosures within play areas and this needed clarification.
Alderman M A Lucas, referring to item 7 on the agenda then asked if the Group would consider widening the scope of the plan to include Parish Councils, whom in my view should be included, based on the fact that certain parties within those Parishes may have land suitable for future ecological improvement, such as church yards and village halls. I ask that MDDC accept the principles contained within this report as a lead in ensuring that any future ecological requirements deemed necessary will be in place and able to manage requests. My own feeling is that MDDC should take a lead in progressing ecological improvements throughout the district, we as a people, are at a cross roads when it comes to the planet’s future and every step to improve our current situation should be made and taken. We are the guardians of the future generations to come and need to take a lead to ensure that they have a heritage.
I would like to pass congratulations to all of the teams involved regarding the introduction of wild flowers to our roundabouts and parks.
The Chairman indicated that those questions that could be answered today would be at the agenda item and those that could not be answered today would be answered in writing.