Is splash park’s future cut and dried?
PUBLISHED: 06:00 09 July 2015
Never mind the cryptosporidium. A new report reveals that the cost of doing anything with Belvedere Splash Park – even closing it down altogether – is enough to make Bexley Council sick. Sarah Linney reports
Dirt, debris, breeding bacteria and nasty tummy bugs… something has to be done about Belvedere Splash Park.
Campaigners are fighting to save the beleaguered but popular water park, which could be closed as part of the ongoing cost-cutting being forced on Bexley Council by the government.
Now the council has made public a report on the future of the water park – which says that doing nothing is not an option and the council must take action to clean it up.
But the report, by consultants Waterman Building Services, says closing the park could actually end up costing the council more than fixing it.
Its fate is now to be decided at the council’s budget meeting on Tuesday, July 21 at 7.30pm in the council chamber.
The park, which has been open since 2005, has a number of water features and a shallow pool at one end for babies and young children.
However, despite its popularity, hygiene is not always its forte, with the rubber surface “acting as a sponge retaining dirty water and requiring constant cleaning,” the report said.
“There are no feet wash trays or facilities for showering before entering the area, and therefore no ways of removing dirt and debris from the children,” it said.
“Soiling from smaller children and babies has resulted in the closing of the facilities for an emergency clean and replacement of the water.
“The filters lack the efficiency to remove cryptosporidium [an organism which causes stomach upsets], which is resistant to chlorine. There are no ultraviolet filters, which would provide effective control of both legionella and cryptosporidium.
“The shallow pool for babies and younger children provides an area where standing water can be trapped all day, providing a breeding ground for bacteria, with dirt, debris and whatever else comes into contact with it exposed to high temperatures on hot sunny days.”
There was also a problem with rainwater running off the ground and into the pool, carrying yet more dirt and grass into the water, the report said.
“Regular maintenance is undertaken, but the water quality in the tank at the end of the day is often found to be turbid, where it should be clear,” the report added.
“Tests often showed levels of bacteria in between cleaning regimes that gave rise to concerns.
“The water treatment system is in need of updating and bringing into line with current legislation. The single storage tank is enabling the dirty and treated water to mix.”
According to the report, the council has three options.
The first is to update the park’s water treatment system, which would improve water quality and reduce maintenance. This would cost between £230,000 and £380,000, with an additional £42,000 each year for maintenance.
The second is to scrap the water treatment and recirculating system and feed the park from the mains water instead.
This would involve getting rid of the toddlers’ pool – which the report recommends anyway – and removing some of the features to limit the amount of water used.
It would be cheaper than the former option, costing between £175,000 and £330,000, with an additional £35,000 annually for maintenance.
“This would alleviate the water quality issues, overcome a number of the other issues and reduce management and maintenance to a minimum,” the report said.
“Water usage would be constant and not affected by numbers of users.
“It is our recommendation that the pool area is removed from the park no matter what upgrades or system are agreed upon. We also recommend removing the entire EDPM [rubber] surface and providing an alternative hard surface.
“The introduction of showering and foot trays would limit the amount of dirt, debris and suntan lotion carried into the facility, but only better signage, education and policing would be effective in reducing personal fouling and enforced park closures.”
The third option is to remove the park and replace it with new play equipment – but even this would cost between £150,000 and £200,000, with annual maintenance costs of £10,000.
Peter Craske, Bexley Council’s cabinet member for leisure, said he had chosen to publish the report “so everyone can see what I see”.
“All those options are expensive,” he added.
But Faye Ockelford, secretary of the Save Belvedere Splash Park campaign, said the report had been “the biggest complete and utter waste of money”.
“They have only looked at three options,” she said.
“The mains-fed solution will never be a viable option because it is a highly residential area and the environmental impact would be horrendous. With no recycling of the water, there isn’t the capacity in the water mains in the area.
“We want a safe, sustainable splash park, and if the council can’t afford to run it we would be happy to look at private alternatives. We have spoken to someone who has offered to take over the running of it.
“But when we asked Cllr Craske if we could have a meeting, he said no. It seems to me that it has been a cut and dried decision – Old Manor Way is in a Conservative ward, so that has been saved, but the splash park is in a Labour ward, so it’s gone.”