Consulting Whitehall

It’s not often I go to such events, but a promise is a promise (and besides the car was off the road and couldn’t make cricket training)Along with daughter Abi, last night we went to the United Reformed Church to sit in on the Consultation for the development of Rugby’s Whitehall Recreation Ground.

If you’re wondering why we were there or if we were just being plain inquisitive or nosey, then there is more to this, so stick with me

It all goes back to Summer last year and a visit to one of Rugby’s other parks, Whinfield Rec. Whilst Abi’s brother Jake was playing football, she – armed with clipboard, pad and pencils, was in full ‘study mode’ jotting down proverbial areas of improvement Rugby Borough Council could be making to the children’s park area (it was, and still is, looking rather tired).
She then promptly wrote and hand delivered a letter to the people at the Town Hall.

Exercise complete? Not so.

A reply from RBC promptly came Abi’s way, thanking her for her time and comments, and also mentioning that she may wish to add her comments and thoughts when the time arrives for the public to comment on what they would like to see at Whitehall (these being in tandem with developments to the Diamond Jubilee Leisure Centre opening in July, supposedly)

QE II Diamond Jubilee Sports Centre Rugby  - how it will/should look

QE II Diamond Jubilee Sports Centre Rugby – how it will/should look

So when chance arrived, Abi put her thoughts online, and we thought that was that.

Then last week a letter arrived from RBC’s preferred consultants, Nortoft, inviting Abi to attend last night’s Consultation, the next stage of what RBC hope will be a successful £1.5 million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid to redevelop the park.
So we arrived to find a cross-section of local residents, local councillors – with the local Lib Dem contingent out in force, members of the Church and other user groups, all keen and interested to see the initial ideas and plans for the 140 year old park.
The audience was then ‘facilitated’ (great term or what?) by four ‘facilitators’ (there we go again) into smaller user groups to get their thoughts on the plans in greater detail, before the masses were ushered back and given chance to ask questions on a wider scale in a final debrief.

The evening’s proceedings were brought rather timely to a close after the proposal of a Friends of Whitehall Rec ‘monitoring and management group was mentioned and just as the subject of skate parks threatened to spill over into something resembling a slanging match (after all, we had already earlier seen an elderly lady depart her small consultation group and proceedings in tears – does that make her ‘un-facilitated’?)

By and large the 90 or so minutes we were in attendance was quite interesting for both of us in terms of what is planned for Whitehall, and what everyone seemingly would like to see improve or develop for it (or not as the case may be). And for Abi there was plenty of biscuits to keep her mind in tune.

To date, looking at the plans there are some interesting ideas on the drawing board, in as much that there are proposals for
– A revamp of the Bandstand to correlate with its position to the Memorial Gates
– A new Promenade inside the Park, as there was back in the day
– New play equipment
– New Skate Park or Ramps
– An active zone, with track plus an Outdoor ‘Green’ Gym

The future of Whitehall Rec - proposed anyway!

The future of Whitehall Rec – proposed anyway!

So potentially some good ideas there, with it would seem a desire for a water feature to compliment and complete the picture (you never know, the kids water fountains and paddling area may yet return!)

It has to be said that Abi’s attendance was greeted with some genuine welcome (and perhaps relief) by our ‘facilitator’ and event tea/coffee monitor (Sue), seemingly the one who sent the invite to her. Equally Abi’s pre-event collation of ‘market research data’ from her classmates at Paddox Primary was well received and will now form part of the HLF application process, which will go forward by the August 31 deadline.

So, we will wait and see.

The irony here in all this in that I have been brought up in and around the open spaces and towering chestnut trees of Whitehall Rec. With my own parents (and grandparents for that matter) taking me here as a toddler, I then spent hours upon end as a kid at Whitehall Rec playing cricket – with the Bandstand as a Pavilion and stumps, football, biking, playing in the now-gone (soon to be returned?) paddling pool, you name it; this all in the days when as a 10 year old you could (and would) go out to the park for hours – in some cases the day, with your friends armed with a packed lunch.

Fast forward to the present day and now it is one of my own, the next generation, who is having an input into Whitehall’s future.

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4 thoughts on “Consulting Whitehall

  1. A different point of view?

    Yes, I also attended the same meeting. Subsequently an informal survey of the “current Whitehall Rec users” has been carried out, and we have found that the majority of them have not even heard of the plans, much less been consulted. The Council itself said they only received about 250 responses from the 70,000 Rugby residents, so it can hardly be said that a representative group attended the meeting. There was no opportunity to say “no” to anything, and although to “claim” the money the council and consultant have to demonstrate that this is a “community led initiative” they will not be truthfully able to claim that as clearly it is NOT community led at all. The plans are being “bigged” up in order to claim money that could go to good causes, which this plan is not. The idea of losing about a quarter of the park to put a new row of trees in seems absurd. As is the idea of cutting the park in half with a concrete path. preventing the use of the open space for games. The concrete skate park was opposed even by skate boarders who said it should not be located near to houses, children’s play facilities and the bowling club. One would expect about 100 decibels from a concrete skate park. You can listen to the sound of these on the web. Then some bright spark thought it better not only to rip up the path that leads along to the Leisure Centre but also to take out ALL the fences, “to make it more inclusive”. Well – that is the stated aim, and immediately all thinking people could see that this would destroy the current activities at the park – ball games;; children playing safely in enclosed space; dog walking and prevent CARS from parking on and driving in the park. Not to mention not allowing access to the park by would-be child abductors. Not to mention the raising of funds for charities at the popular events which would no longer be possible.

    Then there was the idea of making the children’s play area “open plan” with no fences. And putting wet and dry features in it – with an unhealthy dangerous sand pit. And mixing the activities for older children with the smaller ones, so no-one could enjoy it. Then the idea of taking the picnic benches out of the play area, so mums and dads would have nowhere to sit. They did not want to put back the “wet play area” as it was free to use but cost money to run. This was a council led plan to close it in 2008 – and we believe it was paid for by public subscription. The wet play was immensely popular, so why not replace it? Does the Council not want a free place for the smaller children to play.. The skate park idea is extremely contentious as it will spoil the park for all other users, pushing out current users in order that other may disproportionately benefit. The current activities at the park are INCLUSIVE and harmonious and in keeping with the quiet enjoyment by all. There is no conflict. Records of the disgusting obscene graffiti, hooliganism, broken bottles, drug use, noise nuisance, broken trees and littering, and the records of the number of times the police had to be called to the previous skate park at the back of the old Leisure Centre can be made available. Since the skate board park closed the police have not had to be involved in the control of the anti-social behaviour.

    This is a Memorial Park in a Conservation Area. It does not need a quarter of it taking over by trees and a new garden at the United Reform end. It does not need all this money being spent on it, just because it has never been generally maintained. The view from the Memorial Gates goes across to the bandstand and right across the park and up the open landscape of Spring Hill. This would be cut off by giant concrete skate park. The children’s park needs updating but daily one sees small children enjoying the facilities, with parents peacefully sitting nearby. Older people sit on the benches and enjoy the peace and quiet and tranquility, in a friendly safe environment, and in an atmosphere of security and communal space to be enjoyed by all.
    Have the regular users of the park been consulted? No! This is not inclusive and there needs to be a proper survey carried out into what the prople truly think, before they are pushed out!

    • Another case of plans being drawn up based upon what those that don’t or won’t actually use it ‘think’ the public want; then give said public chance to have a look at it via a consultation event (but don’t publicize or promote it too much otherwise too many will attend), and then [most probably] go with the original ideas anyway..but at least those ‘decision makers’ (or facilitators!) have then done their bit and offered the opportunity for the ‘general public’ to have their say etc.

      Very much a similar idea/process not dissimilar to the ‘consultation’ to the St Andrews/Rainsbrook crematorium site from what I have been told,

      Time will tell..

    • seems to be case of put plans together based on what they ‘think’ the public want, given them chance to have a look and say at the plans with a consultation (but don’t promote it widely otherwise too many dissenting voices will attend), and then go ahead with the original plans anyway regardless.

      Similar to the plans and ‘consultation’ of the now-in-progress Rainsbrook Crem from what I have been told.

      Time will tell

  2. Pingback: Friends waiting for Whitehall | Karl Quinney

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