Pensioners Playground – Hyde Park

Key Facts:

Project summary: Playground targeting residents aged 60+

Location: Hyde Park, London.

The playground has been specifically designed for older people to enjoy. The facility contains six pieces of equipment to help users improve core strength, flexibility and balance. Equipment has been selected to ensure a high level of accessibility, ease of use and enjoyment.

Soon after the installation of the equipment, park sports development workers provided induction sessions for users. Although not well attended, they were useful and were attended by those that are now using the facilities frequently.

Initiator: Knightsbridge Residents Association

Project Duration: Opened May 2012. Expected lifespan circa 10 – 15 years

Lead in Time: 18 month preparation and development phase, including a feasibility study

Site Area: Small area approximately 0.0125ha (125m2) within bowling and tennis enclosure

Client Team: Royal Parks – developed and designed in conjunction with the Knightsbridge Residents Association. Equipment provided by Komplan.

Funding Sources: £50k (excluding landscaping)

Funding Type: Internal Budgets

Project Costs (Build): Materials: £50k

Project Costs (Operation):
Included within Royal Parks maintenance budget. Maintained as play area with daily, weekly and annual inspections. Revenue spend is between £32 – 65 per week (£1,600 – £3,300 per annum).

Profitability/Loss: n/a

Permissions / Permits: Planning permission was applied for from Westminster City Council. Particular challenges around providing this type of facility within an historic landscape.

Local Links: The facility is adjacent to a park café and toilets and is visible from the Tennis and Bowls Centres. There are also park rangers working within the park.

Publicity/advertising: There was significant international, national and local publicity like in Manchester several years previously. Since this, there has been relatively limited work undertaken on building awareness and increasing use although it is anticipated that this will be considered next year. The facility is referenced on the website. Following early feedback, improved signage was also installed into the park and it is anticipated that this will be followed through further in 2013.

Project Evaluation:

Site Details & Ownership:
Situated within Hyde Park, London –located within the Bowls and Tennis Centre enclosure. Ownership – the Royal Parks.

Project Reach / Visitors / Target Audience:
The target age group was 65+ and equipment and facility location was designed with this in mind. The aim of the facility was to cater for existing users of the Bowls and Tennis Centre and also attract new users – to encourage exercise and activity for older residents as well as providing a social experience.

While the facility was viewed as local for local residents (and was provided in an attempt to encourage these groups back to the park) it was also hoped that the facility would also be used by visitors to the park.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that during the summer peak period (following the official launch) between 12 -18 visitors were making use of the facility each day. Between 5-10 regular visitors are making use of the facility during winter.

Problems Encountered / Overcome:
No specific problems encountered. However, the following points should be noted:

  • There have been some issues with the need to replace parts – this has occurred predominantly due to overuse.
  • Signage is essential for several purposes – raising awareness of the facility, promoting correct use of equipment (and providing a disclaimer over use) – health and safety.

Also in terms of controlling the use of the facility and managing the expectations of users. Issues were experienced with use of the facility by younger children. Putting signage up outlining the target age ranges has meant that park wardens are able to control usage by referring users to the signage

Key success factors highlighted include:

  • The location of the facility is particularly important. The chosen site has been successful as it is: –
    • close to the access point, (Pavillion) and its associated facilities – this has increased footfall;
    • close to the road and London transport networks including Knightsbridge Tube Station;
    • close to the existing children’s play area;
    • visible from the road and therefore natural surveillance (this also encourages new users);
    • natural shade provided from the trees to the south; and,
    • the facility blends in well with the landscaping.

Community engagement is essential to help determine the facilities required. It is important that full interpretation of demand is carried out to make sure the facility will be used and the equipment provided suits the potential users – there are now a lot of different types of facilities with different benefits available.

The feasibility stage helped to eliminate many potential issues including the location and also provided evidence to support the planning application that the facility was likely to work. Extensive consultation was carried out with The Knightsbridge Association; representatives from the Westminster Ward; Voluntary Action, Westminster; Church St Neighbourhood Management; the Management Team at The Royal Parks; Age Concern, London, Age Concern, Westminster; Steve Riley, Will to Win.

Feedback from users / staff:
Feedback from the Royal Parks, managers of Hyde Park, relating to the impact of the facility is positive. It was suggested that: “It has been successful. If the facility is carefully thought out and opportunities are fully explored, it will offer residents an opportunity to get fit and to be outdoors and will be of benefit to the community”.

What next?
n/a – fixed facility

Complementary Programmes:
The facility’s proximity to the bowling and tennis centres provides opportunities to participate in more than one activity and some discounts have been run at the bowling centre.

Project Website / Further Info: