Verulamium Park Play Area
Verulamium at Play is a local charity (registered charity no. 1170476), that is working in partnership with St Albans City & District Council, to raise money to improve the play area in Verulamium Park, the district’s flagship park. The charity was founded in 2016 and is overseen by three trustees. Its membership is entirely voluntary, open and inclusive to all. It is registered with the Charity Commission and HMRC.
The play area has seen little change in 30 years and retains its original layout. Although the play equipment is maintained and replaced to adhere to safety standards, there’s a view within the community that it’s tired and needs refreshing. This includes providing a wider range of play experiences and better disabled access.
Why isn’t St Albans City & District Council paying for the refurbishment of Verulamium Park’s play area?
Like many councils up and down the country, St Albans City & District Council is seeing budget pressure. This is being caused by reduced government funding, national policy changes and rising inflation. Decisions are being made on where to invest, focusing on improving services and meeting the needs of residents. The Council has identified and is delivering many savings, without cutting services.
The need to refurbish Verulamium Park play area is recognised by the Council and it has allocated £56,000 received from the developers of King Harry Park. However, to create a play area that meets the aspirations of the community in our flagship park, further investment from the community and other funders is being sought.
Play areas in the district are being refurbished on a schedule based on need. Progress is being made on this schedule, especially where there is additional funding available through development contributions or similar. Some play areas will be refurbished because they are at the top of the schedule, others because a community group sources funding, others are a hybrid of these.
In May and June 2016, St Albans City & District Council produced a survey, asking local residents and children about the style and type of equipment they would like to see in the new play area. The survey received 468 replies and Verulamium at Play has taken into account its outcomes as we work towards improving the play area.
Yes. Play equipment has come a long, long way since the existing playground was designed. The idea is to get as much variety of play from it as possible and this will make it more accessible to children with additional needs. On the Verulamium at Play project team we have both a local mum whose child has complex sensory issues and a physiotherapist who works with many children with additional needs to assist with this important issue.
The design will take into consideration the results of the residents’ survey, and the latest guidelines for play areas and inclusive play (for example, from Play England and KIDS). The design will also look to include features to reflect the heritage of the site (Roman Verulamium). Ease of maintenance, lifespan and value-for-money will also be taken into account. Lastly, since the play area is located on top of Roman Verulamium (a Scheduled Ancient Monument), the design will need to meet with approval from Historic England and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
In the UK, a Scheduled Ancient Monument is a ‘nationally important’ archaeological site or historic building, given protection against unauthorised change. The Roman city of Verulamium, underneath our park, is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, first listed in 1950. The play area itself is situated on top of Watling Street, a Roman road that connected Canterbury, London and the North West.
To carry out works at the play area, we will need to work with Historic England and apply for prior written permission from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. This is for works either above or below ground level. The procedure is known as Scheduled Monument Consent or SMC. ‘Works’ are defined by the 1979 Act as demolishing, destroying, damaging, removing, repairing, altering, adding to, flooding or tipping material onto the monument.
St Albans’ flagship park is set in over 100 acres of parkland. It is situated on the site of the former Roman City of Verulamium and is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The ancient city walls can still be seen and hundreds of Roman objects have been excavated from the site. Verulamium museum and the Roman Hypocaust are located at the park, these attract a large number of visitors from across the country each year. Verulamium Park also features an ornamental lake, various sports courts and pitches, a leisure centre, splash park, adiZone, crazy golf, café and toilet facilities. The park is served by two car parks and a network of public footways, bridleways and cycle paths.
The overall cost of the project is estimated to be in the region of £250,000. This sounds a lot (and it is), and that’s for two reasons. Firstly, we are aiming to give our flagship park the flagship play area it deserves. Secondly, the park is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, with the site of Roman Verulamium just below its surface. We will be working with Historic England to ensure that we carefully and sensitively protect the archaeology.
Funds for the playground are coming from several different sources. The Council, through development contributions, has £56,000 already set aside for the project. We are also applying for grants. Community fundraising, including local business engagement will also be vitally important. We have Online Giving and Text-to-Donate set up to help us make fundraising easier. Text PARK18 £2 to 70070.
You can donate to our campaign page on Justgiving at: www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/verulamiumatplay/play. JustGiving accepts PayPal as well as most debit and credit cards. You can also pay directly into our bank account, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s completely free. There’s no cost for sending the text and your free allowance/bundle won’t be affected – the only charge will be the donation itself which will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your pay as you go credit. What’s more, 100% of your text donation (including Gift Aid) will be sent to Verulamium at Play.
In a number of ways! At the moment, we’re particularly looking for anyone who can help us organise some fund-raising events and link up with local businesses. We’ve got a number of event opportunities we’d love to get going with but can’t until we’ve got some more volunteers who can make them happen. Help can also come from small deeds, like holding a collecting bucket for an hour manning a street stall, organising your own event, or simply sending us a donation. We’d love to hear from you and your ideas!