Calls for reinstated fencing at Hitchin playground

PUBLISHED: 16:43 19 January 2011

King George playing fields, Hitchin

King George playing fields, Hitchin

Daniel Wilson

A COUNCIL is being asked to reinstate fencing at a Hitchin playground, following concerns of dog fouling and child safety there.

The King George V playground in Hitchin underwent a risk assessment in the autumn of last year to determine whether fencing was necessary, the outcome of which established it was not.

It follows the same policy as all North Herts District Council (NHDC) play areas, following government guidelines which suggest that children benefit more from play areas in open spaces.

But there have been complaints about the amount of dogs on the fields posing as a threat, and calls that it would be safer and healthier for fencing to be reinstated.

“I’m not giving up on this,” said Cllr Judi Billing, who chairs the Hitchin Committee that has referred the matter to Cabinet.

“I can’t get my head around why it is alright for children to play around in dog mess.

“It has been supported, not just by parents, but dog owners who have found this an issue.”

The original assessment found ‘average excrement’ in the area, but labelled the severity as ‘low’. Any future parks will undergo a similar assessment, where other factors will also be considered.

These include conflict with vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, other animals and overhead cables.

The matter will now go to Cabinet on January 25, where the council will be asked to put fencing around the King George V playground.

“Ideas are constantly evolving on the issue of fencing around playground and the latest advice is that children benefit if play areas merge in to their surroundings rather than being fenced off,” said NHDC Cllr Ian Knighton, portfolio holder for leisure.

“The new play area at King George V in Hitchin had an independent assessment by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, as will be the case for any future play areas in North Herts, and this suggested fencing was not necessary.

“Hitchin area committee has made it clear that a number of residents are concerned about that decision, specifically in relation to irresponsible owners allowing their dogs to foul the area.”

Stevenage Borough Council does not currently employ the same guidelines and has not removed fencing from any of its parks.

But its playground fencing is checked on a weekly basis, with external inspections also carried out on top of this.

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