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.