Local councillors have raised concerns over the ‘increased prominence’ given to commercial attractions in the Royal Victoria Park play area, after a number of worried families contacted them.
Councillor Andrew Furse and other local councillors have received complaints from parents about the relocation of the long-established carousel and the summer bouncy castle to a more central location in the Royal Victoria Park play area.
Councillor Furse (Kingsmead) commented: “Most people accepted these paid-for rides as part of the facilities on offer at Royal Victoria Park. They were previously tucked away in the corner and offered additional activities for those that wished to use them, whilst bringing in some revenue to the Council to support the play area.
“The main area was devoted to free play. Now the rides have been moved to ‘centre stage’ in front of the café and my concern is that this has changed the character of the space.
“I have always considered that the Royal Victoria Park is one place in Bath where parents can take their children without being forced to fork out for rides or other commercial activities.
“Now the emphasis has shifted from a free facility to one where parents may feel these paid-for rides are unavoidable. In my view this is a detrimental step for the play area – a facility I have wholeheartedly supported and defended whilst being a Councillor in this ward for over 20 years.
“Many local families live in flats with no garden; the Royal Victoria Park is their closest outdoor space. It concerns me that families on very low incomes may now be disadvantaged as they are deterred from making use of the play area.
“On Friday I am meeting the Council Leader and I hope this will be an opportunity to make him understand the issue. I have previously questioned the Leader about plans for B&NES parks and I am somewhat reassured to hear that there are currently no plans for further commercialisation.
“I also welcome the forthcoming refurbishment of some of the play equipment at Royal Victoria Park; it’s sensible that this will take place after the school holidays.”
Lib Dem Group Leader, Councillor Dine Romero (Southdown) added: “It is infuriating that once again there has been a significant change to a valued Council service with no attempt to engage with people that use it.
Parents from across the city are unhappy with this change and have complained directly to the Council; so far to no effect.
“It is understandable that the managers wanted to move the rides closer to the café to make it easier to monitor and manage the rides. However, the Cabinet member should have given consideration to park users before giving the go-ahead.
“If local Councillors had been consulted they would have been able to give warning that commercialisation of children’s play would be unwelcome. This is a sad move for local families with young children wanting a cost-free day out.”