Accordia Playground Still Not Open


Friday, December 5th, 2008. 6:29am

Lucy Walker
Cllr Lucy Walker (pictured) the Labour Councillor for the Petersfield ward in Cambridge has been pestering the council for months now encouraging them to get the large playground at the Accordia development off Brooklands Avenue open. I watched her raise the issue again at Cambridge City Council’s full council meeting on the 4th of December 2008.

Cllr Walker had also asked why the playground was not open at the previous council meeting on the 11th of September. I reported on what happened at that meeting writing:

The leader nominated Cllr Blair to answer. She explained how an unsuitable species of plant, a yew with poisonous berries had been planted next to the play area and they had to be removed; this had delayed the adoption and opening of all the play areas as the council had wanted to adopt them all together to save “adoption costs”; there was also a delay as planning permission had to be varied to allow the yew hedge to be removed, which was judged acceptable because the play area was fenced as well as hedged. Cllr Walker stated she was shocked by the catalogue of excuses she had just heard and made clear she wasn’t happy at all; she demanded an assurance that this wouldn’t happen again with other new developments in the city.

By the 17th of October there still had not been any action, so Cllr Walker wrote to the Cambridge Evening News describing the “wonderfully equipped playground which has never been open” despite it being “years after families first came to live on the estate.”

Shockingly, even by last night’s council meeting, on the 4th of December the playground was still not open and Cllr Walker had to again ask Liberal councillors why not.
Her question, as tabled, stated:

Why is the big playground at the Accordia site on Brooklands Avenue STILL not open, and what are you doing about it?

Cllr Walker had specifically directed her question to the Executive Councillor for Arts and Recreation, Julie Smith, and was unimpressed when she passed it on to Cllr Blair for her to answer. Cllr Blair had no answer, she said that she didn’t know why nothing had been done, she was so desperate she mused that it could perhaps be due to the credit crunch. She did offer an apology but said she was reluctant to confirm that there would be progress by a certain date as: “Today’s headline is tomorrow’s retraction”. To which Ian Nimmo-Smith, the Leader of the Council retorted: “Don’t worry he’s gone”, referring to the fact that Cambridge Evening news reported Jack Grove, who had been present earlier in the meeting had left. The Liberals appeared to be having a bit of a laugh amongst themselves about the fact this fiasco wouldn’t be making the paper. Cllr Blair, unable to stop talking, even though she was digging herself a deeper hole, went on to tell the council that even when the poisonous plants had been removed/replaced there would still be a delay of two weeks before the playground could open.

Unsurprisingly Cllr Walker was livid, clearly wanting to be dealing with the organ grinder rather than the monkey, she demanded a response from the Executive Councillor. Cllr Walker drew attention to the fact that the development was “award winning”, referring to fact it had won the 2008 RIBA Stirling Prize, and noted that Liberal Democrat councillors liked claiming that they had had a hand in creating something considered exemplary.

Cllr Julie Smith did eventually succumb to Cllr Walker’s demands, and responded briefly and simply describing the situation as “unfortunate”, she went on to assure the council that she was taking steps to ensure that future handovers went more smoothly.

More possible articles to come following this council meeting:

  • A report on my encounter with Cambridge City Council’s own “Sergeant at Arms”
  • More details on the state of the council’s savings, and an attempt to answer the question: “Why does the Cambridge City Council have £80m in the bank?” – Cllr Nimmo Smith says it is obvious if you look at a certain document – I’ll try and locate the one he is on about.
  • How much does the council raise from selling our glass, cans and plastics to recycling companies
  • What is the council considering doing about the dispute over who owns the Quay at Quayside
  • Allotments
  • ….

4 comments/updates on “Accordia Playground Still Not Open

  1. Richard Article author

    I am not clear on what Clare Blair meant at the council meeting; I have reported what she said and how Ian Nimmo-Smith responded.

    She was certainly expressing a reluctance to promise an opening date; I thought she was trying to use the “Today’s headline is tomorrow’s retraction” quote to suggest in some way that she didn’t want to name a date now, create another headline, only to retract it later. She almost certainly was trying to make some sort of connection to the misinterpretation of her word “oversight” by the Cambridge Evening News; but quite how she thought this was relevant to the Accordia playground I don’t know.

    Perhaps she will clarify what she was trying to say.

  2. Richard Article author

    Cllr Blair, having had time to consider her remarks, has told Saturday’s Cambridge Evening News the council is working tirelessly to open the playground by Christmas.

    It is good to see her set herself a clear target by which she can be judged, but it does beg the question: Which Christmas?

    She has come up with yet another explanation for the delay saying:

    There have been delays in getting rid of the yews because it has to be done at the right time of year so they can be replanted somewhere safe.

    I am not convinced by this argument; I do not believe the recently planted trees would have been in danger of being killed off by another move, and in any case would have prioritised the opening of the playground over any potential health risk to the saplings.

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