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The so called Belvedere Beach which was one of the main features of last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting probably came as a surprise to many, but the idea has been around all year, there was
a Press Release last February.
Whilst the loss of the former Splash Park was a blow to the community and the constant references to cryptosporidium by Bexley Council were verging on fraudulent it was undoubtedly very difficult and expensive to maintain and in many ways its replacement looks to be an improvement. No one likes losing 100 years of tradition but in an age where Health & Safety rules its demise was perhaps inevitable.
Cabinet Member and birthday boy Peter Craske did not forego the opportunity to say so. (Pictures here.)
Cory Environmental Trust has given £150,000 towards the cost and construction will start in the late Spring of 2017 with opening scheduled for early Autumn.
Importantly, and unlike the Splash Park, the Beach will be an all year round facility with special provision for disabled children. Councillor Craske said the 15 children sitting opposite (the Labour group) would have a place to play.
There will be stainless steel percussion instruments, water play, roundabouts suitable for wheelchair users and sensory play activities.
Cabinet Member Don Massey said the playground was “exciting and innovative” and thanked Cory for their continued support for the borough’s leisure activities.
Councillor Philip Read said that we had Conservative Election Candidate Anna Firth to thank for the present situation. He said it was Anna who first proposed a commercial operation and the comments on social media that “there was a Conservative campaign plan to close the Splash Park” was a “lie. “It was complete nonsense” put about by “malicious ill-informed idiots”.
Anyone would think that it was not the Conservatives who announced without notice in the Autumn of 2014 that they would close the Splash Park and via a doctored report on its viability went on to do so. And the idea for a commercial venture failed.
Philip Read again - Those who opposed closure of the Splash Park should have “their sterile contributions ignored” because “they lack the ability to countenance change even when it is for the better”.
Cabinet Member Linda Bailey “echoed what everybody said. I’ll go as far as to say it is better than the Belvedere Splash Park”. For once she may actually be right.
Councillor Alex Sawyer was “proud of an exceptional facility” especially of its commitment to the disabled and the north of the borough.
Councillor Joe Ferreira (Labour, Erith) welcomed the proposals and complimented those who had come up with the design. He suggested there might be more water and his comments were noted.
It wasn’t quite his maiden comment since his recent election, but Councillor Ray Sams made an important contribution. He said that with two playgrounds opposite each other separated by a busy road the crossings and barriers should be re-examined. Councillor Craske agreed.
Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) had some concerns about the facilities for the disabled, nothing can be much easier than pushing a wheel chair into a shallow pool but lifting a growing child on to play equipment gets ever more difficult. As Daniel said at the meeting, one of his twins is disabled, so he will know that better than most.
He asked if Cory had set a time limit to their generosity, usually they insisted the public facilities must be available for a minimum of 25 years or similar. The Deputy Director for Leisure said she “did not have the answer to hand”.
No Council meeting is complete without Councillor David Leaf (Conservative, Longlands) making his views known. “The previous Splash Park and previous paddling pool was, outside the time there was water there, an empty pit with leaves in Autumn and rubbish during much of the rest of the year”. Leafs and rubbish! Nice pun Councillor Leaf.
Unlike the Splash Park (mandatory jibe directed at the opposition warning!) the price will not go up by 60% a week after the scheme is approved with no consequent raid on the budget for disabled people.
Councillor Cafer Munur (Conservative, East Wickham) said the Beach was better than a Splash Park because “this is Bexley not Barbados”.
The decision to go ahead with The Beach was approved unanimously.