Wallingford facilities impacted by COVID-19.
Wallingford Town Council shares the frustrations of many people, especially those with young families, who are impacted by the ongoing closure of the playground in the Bull Croft, the closure of the splash-park, and the increasing problem of litter on the river banks adjacent to the moorings. Nobody takes these issues lightly, but their ongoing resolution is unfortunately another symptom of the coronavirus pandemic.
The playground was shut in the early stages of lockdown, and as a result of the extended period of inactivity, some mechanical components, based on a visual inspection, appear to be unsafe. The planned inspection in July did not take place as ROSPA, the contractor, could not attend due to their workload and despite our best efforts we have still not been able to secure a new inspection and repair by an appropriately qualified contractor. As we suspect there is a problem we are therefore taking the prudent course of action and keeping the playgrounds closed. For anybody who considers this to be an over-reaction, we would point out that Tower Hamlets council is currently being sued for £2million due to the death of a child on unsafe equipment which had not been inspected. We do not wish see a similarly tragic event in Wallingford. As soon as we can source an inspection and repair, we will take all reasonable grounds to re-open the playgrounds.
The closure the splash park is again unfortunate. Whilst several town councillors have lobbied SODC to reopen this facility for the summer, we reluctantly accept the rationale that it is not possible. The transmissibility of COVID-19 in water is still unclear and the likely viable treatment methods would require chemical discharges in to the Thames that require a thorough approvals process to demonstrate negligible environmental impact. Furthermore, the increased staffing required due to social distancing at other leisure venues that are re-opening means that the operator has had to make painful decisions on where to deploy its resources at a time when the profitability of any venue is uncertain. Government advice on the reopening of leisure centres arrived too late to develop the necessary procedures at the splash-park given the short summer season. We have been given assurances that SODC and the operator will start work early next year on plans to reopen the splash-park for 2021, and have been given further assurances that they will engage with the town council and local community at an early stage to seek collaborative solutions to overcome any difficulties that may be forthcoming next year.
An unfortunate consequence of the closure of the splash park has been a reduction in the routine ground maintenance – this is now being resolved by SODC and the operator.
Litter has become an increasing problem along the riverbank. The east and west banks are owned by the Town Council and SODC respectively, although the Town Council manages the moorings on both sides. A condition of all users of the moorings is that they dispose of their own litter in a responsible manner at off-site facilities. Whilst some litter cleaning activities were reduced during lockdown, these have now returned to normal. Town Council staff do undertake litter clearance activities but the volume of rubbish has been growing recently, for reasons which are unclear. SODC have agreed with their contractor, Biffa, that bins along the riverside will now be emptied twice daily. We will continue to work with SDOC in keeping the area clear, but the ultimate responsibility lies with individuals to properly dispose of their own rubbish. If you’ve brought it with you, please take it away.
Despite the easing of lockdown, activities are still impacted on a daily basis. We are working to resolve both a backlog of issues caused by the lockdown, and the ongoing reduction in various resources such as contractors across many services which we take for granted in normal times. We appreciate your understanding and patience at this time
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