A REPORT ON THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THE EAST VIEW TERRACE KICKABOUT AREA 

INTRODUCTION

The East View Terrace Kickabout Area is the only Kickabout hard surface play area in the Village of Sedlescombe.  There are two all-steel football/basketball units, a litter bin and an open-sided shelter on the site.   The freehold of the site belongs to Sedlescombe Parish Council and there is a covenant imposed on the land by the donor landowner restricting use to a play area.  All age groups are welcome to use the site.

The only other play area on the East View Terrace Estate is a small Orbit Housing Association playground with a multiplay piece of equipment restricted to use by under 10 year olds (age governed by a Parish Council byelaw) which currently needs refurbishment. 

In the Village of Sedlescombe, approx half a mile away, on what is known locally as the Riverside Playground, is a newly-refurbished children’s playground with a range of equipment suitable for toddlers to 12 year olds.  There are also, on the same site, two hard tennis courts which can be hired for £5/court/hour and a good-sized area of grass.  This site is charitable land – Sedlescombe Playing Field Trust – and the Parish Council is the sole trustee. 

Also in the Village is a sportsfield of nearly eight acres which belongs to the Parish Council and is leased to the Sedlescombe Sports Association.  Although this area is used for organised sport, the Association usually allows use by local children for informal games.

HISTORY OF THE EAST VIEW KICKABOUT AREA

Until 1991, there was one play area on the Estate with a few pieces of equipment and a grass kickabout area.

In 1991, on redevelopment, the play area was built on and a small new playground with equipment provided by Orbit Housing Association.  This area remains restricted to under-10s, although, in the past, there have been complaints about youths meeting there at night.

In 1995, the Parish Council was approached by the East View Terrace Residents’ Association about the lack of play space on the Estate for older children.  The site of the kickabout area was chosen by the Residents’ Association, they made the initial contact with the landowner and he, subsequently, gave the freehold of this small piece of land on the edge of the Estate to the Parish Council with a covenant that it should always be used as a play area.

In 2000, the Parish Council held a youth meeting to find out what Village youngsters wanted.  Fifty youngsters attended and this was followed by a survey.  The main request was for improvement of the kickabout area which was sloping grass and, according to the youngsters, was no good for playing football because it was often too wet.  They also wanted somewhere they could meet.  The Residents’ Association was no longer in being and the Parish Council drew up a scheme to tarmac the area and install two all-steel football/basketball units with an open-sided shelter, litter bin and seat.  The cost was £22,000 and grant aid from many sources, including the Police and Housing Associations, was obtained to help meet the cost, being fully supported by them.

In accordance with advice, the Parish Council ran a competition for the youngsters to provide two designs for the shelter, one for the smaller children and the other for the older ones.  The plan was for the youngsters to help do the painting and then, when they had grown up, for others to paint the shelter with their own designs.  In the event, most youngsters did not want to be involved and, as soon as the painting had been completed mostly by adults, they set fire to it and have generally continued to damage it since.  The shelter had been carefully designed to have a very narrow bench seat so as not to encourage anyone to lie on it.  It is open-sided so that it can be overlooked, one of the advantages being that it is close to houses so that any anti-social behaviour can be stopped quickly.  In 2002, the new area was completed. 

ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

According to the September 2006 report provided by Ian Morris, Chairman of the newly-formed East View & Conqueror Association, the Kickabout Area is used inappropriately as follows:

By young adults.  It is not clear in the report what problems this use brings to neighbouring properties.  The Parish Council does not restrict use of the Kickabout Area to any particular age group.  The area is obviously a suitable facility for young adults up to 25 years old to play football.  Leaving litter does not affect the neighbouring properties as the area is regularly cleared up by the Parish Council.

Use by young adults at night.  It appears that the young people are encouraged to visit the site at night because their friends live nearby – the report states that the Kickabout Area is “used as an extension to the gardens of some residents who host parties for this group”.  The anti-social behaviour issues raised are:

o   Cars blocking driveways and the occupants supplying drugs.  This is a Police matter.

o   Drinking in the shelter – if over 18, there is no restriction on drinking in public;  if under 18, Police can confiscate alcohol.

o   Listening to music in the shelter – if there is a noise nuisance, Rother District Council should be informed.

o   Exchange and use of banned substances in the area, primarily in the shelter.  This is a Police matter.

o   Meeting at the shelter.  The shelter appears to be highly successful in doing what it was built for, ie providing a meeting place.  Experts state that youth shelters attract a wide variety of young people and enable youth workers to identify and engage with them, influence their behaviour and, where appropriate, signpost them into other support networks.  Under anti-social behaviour legislation, a youth shelter gives Police a practical option of somewhere safe and appropriate to disperse groups of young people to.  Evidence from Police Authorities has also shown that youth shelters actually reduce the recurring cost to a community of certain anti-social behaviours.  For example, litter collections become focused on one area and, therefore, take less time. 

o   Broken glass in the play area.  Collection is a Parish Council responsibility which is taken seriously.  The site is checked each week.

o   Damaged fencing.  A covenant on the land requires a 2 metre fence at the site.  This is often damaged and repair is a Parish Council responsibility.

o   Use of goals as climbing frames.  The all-steel frames were chosen for their strength.  Whatever equipment is provided will be used for purposes other than intended.

o   Closeness to neighbouring properties.  As can be seen from the history detailed above, this area was chosen by the East View Residents Association and the land was given by a local man to the Parish Council to maintain as a play area.  Ten years ago, Its location was one of its  main advantages because activities could be monitored by those living nearby.  It also provided and provides a much-needed area for children to play on an informal basis close to their own homes.  Alternative areas in the Village require a walk across fields and, to reach the other playground, crossing a busy road. 

If children under 16 are involved at night, the Police and Community Support Officers can disperse groups of two or more and return them to their homes if they are unsupervised after 9pm. 

It is encouraging that Ian Morris’s report states “the past few months have seen a reduction in nuisance behaviour”.  Mr Morris does, however, fear that there will be a re-emergence of the disturbances.  It may be that the measures that are being put in place are having a good effect but, of course, as other children grow up, action will need to be reintroduced from time to time.

PROPOSAL TO RE-LOCATE THE KICKABOUT AREA

Mr Morris sees relocation of the Kickabout Area to a different position in the Village as a possible solution to the problems his household is currently suffering.   He believes that provision of a new wheeled play area with an all weather impact absorption surface somewhere else would provide an excellent facility for a wider range of users. 

Relocation of the Kickabout Area would, of course, leave children at the East View Terrace Estate in the same position as they were pre -1995 ie with just a small under-10s children’s play area.  This area currently needs refurbishment.  The importance of a play area where the children live was stressed at the time of the East View Kickabout Area’s acquisition.  There are 110 houses on the Estate and there is a greater concentration of youngsters there than anywhere else in the Village.

If it was decided that the Kickabout Area should be closed, the prospect of a new sports facility in the Village is attractive.  However, currently, no suitable land is available.  If this meeting place is closed, other even less suitable  areas could be used as a meeting place and come under pressure such as the toilets or bus shelter. 

SUMMARY

In summary, the current situation appears to be:

1.       The Parish Council provided the Kickabout Area at the request of the community.  It is maintained as an informal recreation ground  and is regularly used for the proper purpose.   The Parish Council clears up the rubbish and makes repairs as necessary.  The Parish Council is pressing Rother District Council to impose a Drinking in Public Places ban, is providing evidence of drinking problems and is encouraging other parishes to forward their problems to the Police.

2.       The Youth Development Service has the opportunity to meet groups of youngsters congregating at the Kickabout Area and to change behaviour or to refer to the appropriate agencies.

3.       The Anti-Social Behaviour Officer has the authority to take appropriate action if anti-social behaviour is witnessed.

4.       The Police have authority to take appropriate action if illegal practices occur including drinking and driving, driving while under the influence of drugs, dealing in drugs, under-age drinking etc.

5.       The PCSOs have the opportunity to get to know the people meeting at the Kickabout Area and to influence their behaviour.

6.       The Fire and Rescue Service have the opportunity to inform the youngsters of the dangers of playing with fire.

7.       Rother District Council has authority to take action if certain noise levels are exceeded.

8.       Orbit Housing Authority will take appropriate action to appease its residents.

P J Raymond
Clerk, Sedlescombe Parish Council
3 October 2006