New Playground Consultation

The Garden Committee will shortly be launching a Section 20 Consultation, encompassing all ratepayers, regarding replacing the Garden’s aging play equipment. This page provides a brief background of the Play Area, the existing equipment, and consideration factors when deciding on the new play area.

Once the consultation is live a seperate page will be provided, password protected for residents, outlining the bids and designs recieved.

The Garden Committee, appointed from May 2022, have resolved to remove the existing play area no later than 2023. This page gives the background to that decision, and factors influencing any replacement equipment.

Regulatory Position of the Gloucester Square Playground

Private Residential Gardens find themselves in a complex regulatory position in that whilst they are not open to the public, they are also not a private residence where any Play Equipment would typically be actively supervised by the owner / single-point-of-authority, and the number of simultaneous users is limited.

The safety standards for Public and Private Areas differs significantly, not least in terms of the:

  • Minimum space between different sections of play equipment (swings, slides, climbing walls, etc)
  • Distance between routes into and out of play structures
  • Clear separation of Swings from other equipment, with no more than 2 swings per structural span
  • Maximum potential fall height
  • Fall zone widths
  • Suitable safety surfacing in fall zones
  • Width and position of any gaps in railings / steps
  • Method by which the equipment is secured to the ground (if any)

Whilst the British European Standard for Public Play Areas – BS EN1176 – that was first introduced in 1998, is not a specific legal requirement, it is nonetheless a recognised standard, that would likely impact the liability of the Garden Square in the unfortunate event of an accident.

Comparing Gloucester Square to its Peers

It is no surprise that the vast majority, if not all of the Playgrounds installed in Garden Squares in London, have opted to follow the best practice by employing professional playground companies to install BS EN1176 compliant equipment, including but not limited to:

Indeed of the 12+ Garden Squares visited by Committee members this summer, and the dozens of squares linked from, to the best of our knowledge: none have a domestic play area currently installed..

The inevitable difference between EN1176 Compliant Play Equipment, and Domesitc Playgrounds, is the quality and space between elements. The type of domestic playgrounds sold by department stores, with swings, slides, and climbing walls all attached to a small single unit, categorically do not meet EN1176 standards.

Evolving with the Times

As should be evidenced from the links to Playgrounds in comparable gadens above, play areas have evolved over the last 10 years to be more interesting visually, with challenging tasks for the young residents and their guests. This not only helps prevent missuse (i.e. young people seeking more adventure by using or climbing on the equipment in a way that was not intended), but also maximises the energy expenditure in the specified area, reducing the chance for misbehaviour elsewhere in the garden.

The Committee will be looking to maximise the attention-holding value of any new equipment, whilst balancing the need to not disrupt the character and environment of our 180 year old Garden Square.

A Brief History of the Play Area

Pre 2007 Swing Set

Prior to the current Play Equipment being installed, the play area consisted of a large double swing set, next to a large Chestnut Tree that was felled (with Planning approval after an initial rejection was successfully appealed).

The Swing Set was likely EN1176 compliant in that there were only two swings, attached to a standalone structure, with plenty of fall-space around the equipment.

2008 New Play Set

The current playground is thought to be a domestic unit, purchased in early 2008.
As Google Streetview from the time shows, the play area was expanded into the space made available from removing the Chestnut tree.
A fence was installed around the Play Area, though run very close to the equipment, this was unfortunate as the fence was positioned within the equipment’s fall zone.
Neither the equipment or position of the fence were EN1176 compliant.

The Play Area in Early 2022

By the start of 2022 the Play Area had already been showing its age for several of its 14 years. The canopy over the tower had been removed several years ealier, and some pieces were loose / becoming detatched.

The fence around the Garden was also in a poor state, and some immediate remediation work was undertaken to repair it.

Remediation Steps Undertaken in 2022

In June 2022 the incoming committee made took several steps to improve the safety of the Play Area, including:

  • Removing the fence from around the Play Area, given the risk it posed within the equipment’s fall zone
  • Resecuring the Noughts and Crosses section that had worn loose overtime
  • Removing and inspecting all swing bushells to ensure they were still in good order
  • Cleaning the equipment thoroughly
  • Putting up signs reminding all residents that Children should be supervised at all times
  • Checking the base of the structure to ensure the wood is still of a reasonable integrity

Whilst these remediation works have improved the safety or the play area to the acceptable standard, the time and expense required to maintain the existing equipment is considered unsustainable.

Looking Forward: Replacing or Removing the Playground in 2023

The current equipment in the Garden stands in stark contrast to all other Gardens surveyed by the Gloucester Square Garden Committee.

Indeed the committee is not aware of any comparable Gardens that operate with Domestic play equipment, and as such do not intend to replace the existing equipment with anything other than a professionally installed, EN1176 compliant playground.

Whilst the incoming committee has acted quickly to inspect, repair, and remediate the play area, the cost of continuing to inspect and repair / remediate this 14+ year old playground is deemed to be prohibitively expensive and time consuming. As such the Committe have decided to set a deadline of for removing or replacing the equipment in 2023.

Balancing Features with Space Requirements

The Garden Committee consider the play area to be a vital part of residents use and enjoyment of the Garden, and as such we intend to fully endorse the replacement of the Play Area Equipment.

It will be impossible to replicate the number of features of the existing domestic play area, within the confines of the existing space (most of which was occupied by just two swings up until late 2007). The Playground subcommittee will be working with qualified suppliers to come up with creative solutions to keep an entertaining play area for our younger residents, whilst not altering the character and utility of the Garden for remaining residents.

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