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)
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
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.