Central Coast Council recently upgraded the playspace at Bloodtree Oval, Mangrove Mountain.
The local playspace was 25 years old and was originally built with funding raised by the local community. Due to its age and declining condition it required a renewal which will also meet current Australian Standards.
Council ran community consultation to determine current and future users of the playspace and their preferences for the type of playspace and inclusions they would like to see in the upgrade.
Construction was completed earlier than expected in April of this year and the playground will finally open to the public this week following COVID-19 closures of public playgrounds.
Frequently asked questions
How are the locations of new playspace facilities determined?
The need for and locations new parks and facilities are generally determined through the planning process and guided by existing planning policies and strategies which have considered the current and future needs of the community.
Locations for new playspace facilities are determined by assessing a number of key criteria and the availability and size of land It’s certainly a key consideration for Council that we provide our region with well-maintained and activated sport, leisure and recreation facilities to support healthy lifestyles and connected communities for the benefit of all residents.
The physical location of playspaces and how they are spatially distributed across the region are important in determining how well they’re used. Council aims to ensure that there is a network of well designed, inclusive, enjoyable appropriately sited playspaces that provide diversity in play experiences. The location is determined by the availability of existing quality open space to support the inclusion of a playspace facility that meets the design requirements.
What’s the difference between Local, District and Regional Playspaces?
Council has developed a hierarchy of playspace types guided by local and state guidelines for open space so that there is a fair distribution and a variety of destination areas for short and extended visits.
The hierarchy consists of:
1. Regional playspaces – These are currently the largest of Council’s suite of playspaces which attract and serve people across the whole region and outside areas. They typically have the greatest capacity and variety of equipment and aim to improve inclusion, activation, and social engagement across all ages, abilities and cultural groups. Visitors are encouraged to stay for longer than two hours as they incorporate a wide array of complimentary facilities including shelters, tables, barbecues, car parking and associated activities such as half-courts, skate areas and bike paths. Examples include Saltwater Creek Park Long Jetty, Peninsula Recreation Precinct Umina, and Canton Beach Community Park for the visually impaired.
2. District playspaces - are medium size playspaces which provide for the Social Plan District but may also serve the region with play equipment catering to multiple age groups. They are accessible by bicycle, car, bus and are co-located with other facilities such as parking, toilets, shared paths or sports facilities to maximize use and are fully inclusive. Examples are Sohier Park, Ourimbah, Empire Bay Tennis,
3. Local playspaces - These make up 80% of our playspaces located within local parks and typically have the least play equipment. They are intended to provide for the local community and are within walking distance generally at a 500m radius.
How are playspaces planned?
We are currently developing a playspace strategy for the whole Central Coast which outlines the principles for the provision of quality facilities to meet the needs of our community. Planning provision has considered the distribution, quality and size of playspaces across the region, in association with the availability of public open space, rather than a set number of playspaces for each area.
Some of the Key principles that inform the planning and provision of playspaces include residential catchment ensuring equal distribution across the region, co-location with other facilities, well-designed playspaces that are compliant, creative, inclusive, and accessible and minimise maintenance.
For equitable distribution assessment is made on the availability of open space, demographic data and the size and topography of the park to support the type of playspace proposed and that they can be sustainably managed within council’s resource allocation.
Council aims to meet the needs of the majority of users in planning and designing each playspace based on demographics and community feedback.
Will the community have an opportunity to have a say in future planning?
Yes! Council are developing a number of ‘One’ Central Coast strategies this year – the skate strategy, active lifestyle and playspace strategy to name a few, with community consultation being a key contributing factor to guide these. We will in due course promote these opportunities to the community, so they can have their say, either by attending workshops, online surveys and forums.
Have your Say and Your Voice consultation also occurs on key infrastructure projects as part of the community consultation phase.
What are inclusive playspaces?
Inclusive playspaces provide for all abilities, not just access. Accessible playspace design mainly addresses the movement needs of those with disabilities. Council is committed to making places more inclusive.
This principle of providing inclusive and accessible playspaces will continue in line with the NSW Govt ‘Everyone can Play’ guidelines and Central Coast Council Disability Inclusion ction Plan to meet the needs of our diverse range of users.
Council is planning improvements to access in play spaces across the region with priority given to addressing deficiencies in existing regional and district play spaces. Some local playspaces in areas where there is an above average need will have improved access.
Why don’t all playspaces have shade structures?
Shade structures are included at all regional and district playspaces in the areas of the park that are most essential – such as toddlers’ areas. They are not generally included in local playspaces.
Council uses natural shade within playspace design via existing trees or the planting of mature trees.
Shade structures or tree planting are not always possible at every location due site constraint such as impacts upon surrounding properties etc. and the high incidence of vandalism and cost of maintenance of shades structures.
In line with Cancer Council recommendations it is recommended to visit playspaces mornings and afternoons and not at the hottest time of the day (in the middle of the day) and to always be wear sun-safe clothing such as long sleeves and hats.
Why don’t playspaces have fences if alongside waterways or roads?
Risk assessments are undertaken during the development of concept plans for playspace sites to ensure adequate measures are put in place for the safety of the community and users of the area.
Partial fencing is occasionally included for playspaces if considered too close to a hazard, such as a main road or water body at ten metres or less. However, the fence does not replace the need for parental supervision at all times, especially around all bodies of water.
Regional level playspaces will incorporate a fencing if assessed as a need for a specific use.
Why are there public toilets at some playspaces and not others?
The co-location of other facilities such as pathways for accessibility and public toilets are considered when selecting locations for new playspaces. Regional playspaces are generally designed to include public amenities buildings where they don’t already exist.
Why can’t rubber softfall be used for all playspaces?
Sand, mulch, synthetic grass (with attenuation) and rubber softfall are the four identified choices for playground surfacing that meet Australian Standard requirements to minimise risk and injury.
Each choice has it’s positive and negative attributes. Rubber softfall provides a stable and level surface ensuring the area is accessible, however it has a relatively low lifespan, high installation cost and holds heat during summer months.
Mulch softfall and sand are generally less expensive than rubber but requires regular maintenance and topping up. Often these surfaces are a cooler surface than rubber softfall.
Council uses both rubber and mulch softfall in most playspace areas to balance between functionality and cost effectiveness. The rubber softfall is typically used in high wear areas and the areas of the playspace that require accessible connections between the different equipment and back to other pathways around the facility.
How are playspaces monitored to make sure the equipment is safe?
Council is committed to providing safe quality playspaces for the local community.
In 2018 Council commissioned an independent audit of all playspaces across the Central Coast to assist with future planning and identify any safety and compliance issues that were required to be addressed.
If the outcome of this independent audit determined that a particular playspace does not meet Australian Standards or in an acceptable condition, relevant repair work is undertaken or plans for replacement are put in place. If any equipment is identified as having imminent risk, it is removed immediately.
Additionally, playspace inspections are carried out quarterly throughout the year by qualified Council staff to ensure the equipment in in safe condition.
How safe is it to use public spaces located next to mobile phone base stations?
Council understands that the community may have health and safety concerns related to mobile phone base stations.
On advice from the Federal Government’s Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, it is determined that mobile phone base station antennas emit low level radiofrequency (RF) electromagnetic energy (EME), and based on current research there are no established health effects that can be attributed to the low RF EME exposure from mobile phone base station antennas.
A fact sheet provided by this agency is available online https://www.arpansa.gov.au/understanding-radiation/radiation-sources/more-radiation-sources/mobile-phone-base-stations