‘Waltham Forest’ is the largest multi-site project that eibe has ever undertaken, having been awarded the contract after a design and build tender at the beginning of 2013. Eight companies were invited to pitch, but it was eibe that proved its worth by providing important sustainable credentials and a customer service promise to deliver on London Borough of Waltham Forest’s own environmental beliefs.
Waltham Forest was an Olympic Host Borough at the 2012 London Games. As part of its sporting legacy phase, it had an ambitious programme of significant regeneration projects to deliver by January 2014. These included an extensive Parks and Play improvement programme using Council capital investment. In order to deliver the Parks and Play project, key Council stakeholders sought experienced and innovative partners to install relevant, desirable and inclusive playgrounds for a variety of schemes. All of the parks welcomed community involvement where neighbourhoods had their own chance to influence the design process. This proved both popular with the younger generation and beneficial to the end result, as each and every site was completely different in terms of the play equipment and cosmetic design. The eibe team invested a serious amount of time in advertising and promoting the new ventures, getting to know local schools and counselling opinion and ideas; there was also a Parent’s Forum, an organisation that has over 2,000 families registered with them for special needs. A meeting was held with the director who was able to give the eibe team guidance and information regarding the area of special needs within the borough.
Where there were no ‘Friends of ‘groups formed, letters were sent out via the local schools asking for suggestions and thoughts.
“Involving the local community each step of the way was a great initiative,” says eibe managing director Paul Redden, “Public consultation findings lead to a feeling of belonging and the concluding feedback from all the local communities that we have interacted with is one of total positivity. Having set out to revitalise fun and recreation areas by providing the young with dynamic natural play and adventure facilities, Waltham Forest has shown a commitment to support children’s learning and curiosity in safer and more alluring environments. It’s been a pleasure being part of the journey."
Each renovated playspace now has its own unique characteristics and features. All the wonderful ideas and creative input we received manifested itself in to a myriad of wondrous design concepts and genuinely influenced the ultimate look and feel of the parks. The resulting dynamic play areas are refreshing and exciting for all users, whether from the local neighbourhood or visitors to the East End. The all-inclusive factor was essential and was always high on committee agendas. The accessible nature of the playgrounds encourage harmonious play and imaginative interaction through natural and sensory landscaping. The playscapes are evocative to sight, smell, touch and sound, offering an educational element on top of all the fun and adventure.
One thing that is absolutely evident from the whole Regeneration Project is the increase in participation and footfall. By creating Park and Play areas that people want to visit and re-visit with friends and family, we have helped to nurture community spirit and enhance social integration across different ethnicities, a tremendously important success criterion in this particularly multi-cultural part of the world.
There have been many winners in this complex process. Waltham Forest has certainly delivered on its promise to the community and maintenance costs will now be much lower, as repairing the older, uninviting parks was a costly reoccurrence, largely due to anti-social behaviour. Simple things like not having sides on pavilions – ergo, no hiding places – mean graffiti opportunities are harder and the aesthetically-pleasing appearance of the playspaces should render a sense of pride and ownership because of the initial involvement of so many different parties. Indeed, Friends of Park Groups have been established around several sites already, bonding neighbourhoods further and eibe plans to replicate the ‘urban turnaround’ in other major cities such as Birmingham and Manchester in the course of time.
Each park had its own launch day, typically attended by a local mayor or councillor, as well as eibe staff who came equipped with gifts and sweets. At certain events, local schoolchildren made the ribbons for the grand cutting ritual!
As a result of some outstanding feedback from attendees, Waltham Forest entered the “Place Making” awards for its delivery of the parks and programmes team 2013. They received a “Highly Commended” award. They are also entering the ROSPA Play Quality Awards with a more individual focus on the aspect of inclusivity.
eibe’s Sandra O’Sullivan, who led much of the community engagement exercise, believes that the entire team’s commitment, including weekend work and personal meetings at unsociable hours embedded the business within the society. The fostering of fraternal goodwill is picked up by Waltham Forest’s Project Engineer for Parks and Play, Ben Frearson, who enthused,
“Sandra’s enthusiasm, dedication and quality of her work are unparalleled. Throughout the year, Sandra has undertaken consultation that has been far more thorough and comprehensive than other play companies.
Sandra is always happy and willing to assist with queries and issues when they arise and she will ‘go the extra mile’ to ensure the client is happy.”