Public playgrounds are an iconic symbol of childhood. The first playgrounds were a German invention built to teach children how to play. 1859 saw the first British playground in Manchester. 1907 saw the introduction of playgrounds in America because President Roosevelt considered roads to be unsafe.
The first playground equipment consisted of slides, swings, roundabouts and climbing frames. Traditional playground equipment focused on physical development leaving very little opportunity for creativity. Adventure and junk playgrounds were developed to encourage imagination and free play.
There are more than forty public playgrounds spread out across the Folkestone & Hythe District.
Recently a proposal for a Roman Fort destination public playground (plan pictured) was mooted to possibly become a permanent fixture on Jock’s Pitch on the East Cliff, in Harbour Ward, Folkestone. However, this proposal, first mentioned on Facebook by Town Cllr Mary Lawes, has polarized the Harbour Ward community.
Recently a residents meeting to took place at St Peter’s Church, The Durlocks, on Monday 4th Oct at 7pm. The meeting was attended by eighty five people, not all from Harbour Ward, to discuss the proposed Roman Fort public playground on Jock’s Pitch on the East Cliff of Folkestone. Much was said, especially the plans are just a proposal, and the community would need to raise around £300,000, to turn the proposal into a reality. Yet even though the idea remains on paper, polarized groups for and against the proposed playground have emerged.
So apart from play teaching children to understand risk taking and extend their skills, develop physical and emotional capacities and challenge themselves, children find out very quickly that it is rude to push in and that turn-taking is very important. They learn to make friends and how to deal with conflict under the watchful eye of their parents. Play is an essential part of civic infrastructure, just as important as pavements are for pedestrians. But the benefits don’t just stop there. It’s well known that living near a park, public garden or playing fields can add an average of £2,500 to the price of your property, according to official data published by the Official of National Statistics. That data is two years old and it’s now reckoned it adds up to £4,000 to the price of a property, so what’s not to want when your house value rises just because of its location?
Now many of you might not realize, “Folkestone is a divided town“. This is a statement made in the Folkestone Place Plan Urban Appraisal at page 10 of the document which states:
Four areas are in the top 10% most deprived in the country and struggle particularly with low incomes and high unemployment and crime. In Folkestone Central and Harbour wards, 30% of children live in low income households compared to 20% across FHD and 18% nationally… which is resulting in a stark disparity in health, wellbeing and quality of life outcomes between local people
Regular readers of Shepway Vox would know these stats should not come as a shock, as child poverty in each district of Kent has grown over the last five years, according to data released by the DWP and HMRC. Now given the district has been fortunate enough to have the philanthropy of the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, even their generous financial interventions have done little to prevent more children sliding into both absolute and relative poverty over the last five years, within our district.
Report after report shows how health outcomes for children and adults in coastal communities makes them “old before their time“. A Roman fort public playground, would in small part, assist in changing such health and life outcomes for all children in the most deprived ward in the district. As a well known supermarket says “every little helps“.
At present there is a small playground on Jock’s pitch which measures approx 8m by 8m. Within this space there are three tired pieces of playground equipment and one bench, hardly inspiring or welcoming to children or parents.
In the most deprived ward in the whole district, such a proposal should we believe, be welcome. However adults raise their voices across social media and we hear nothing from the kids of the ward. This needs to change.
Yes there are issues, but all issues have a way of being resolved. Solutions need to be found, as no more children need slip into poverty in the district. Anything we can do to create improved outcomes for children in the most deprived ward in the whole district, should be welcomed.
Finally, it’s known that a significant contribution will be made to begin turning the proposal into a reality. Former KCC Cllr Dick Pascoe donated £20,000 of his grant money to push the proposal along. The idea of a roman fort public playground it is still a long way off the £300,000 funding needed, but is actively being sought, and knowing how doggedly determined some people are who are behind the proposal, that’s not such a mountain to climb.
In the immortal words of Santana – Let the children play.
The Shepway Vox Team
Democracy Dies in Darkness