Joy for Sherborne parents as Blackberry Lane to get new play equipment

Courtesy of Somerset Live

By Daniel Mumby  |  Posted: February 23, 2017


Parents in Sherborne are celebrating after it was confirmed that play equipment at a popular play area would soon be replaced.

Sherborne Town Council voted last February to remove decades-old play equipment from a play area on Blackberry Lane after it failed a safety inspection.

Following the decision, parents came together to create the Blackberry Lane Play Area Fundraiser page on Facebook, enlisting the help of local MP Oliver Letwin to raise money for new equipment.

The group has undertaken numerous fundraising activities, including a geocaching competition, and has received donations from Waitrose's Community Matters fund and the Queen Elizabeth Day held in June.  Jennie Banks

Sherborne Town Councillor Susan Greene with the play equipment which was removed in February 2016

On Monday (February 20) the council agreed to use some of its reserves to fund new equipment, with up to £68,000 set to be spent on restoring the play area to its former glory.

Town clerk Trevor Savage said that the council had no choice but to remove the equipment in the first instance, but that its members had been impressed by the £7,500 that the community had managed to raise towards the project.

He said: " Following the removal of the equipment, we came in for a degree of criticism as replacement equipment was not be provided immediately. We responded that our actions had been solely to comply with health and safety advice which we received.

"We would like to record our thanks and congratulations to those behind the £7,500 of community fundraising, and request their involvement in designing the replacement equipment."

West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin has thrown his support behind the Blackberry Lane fundraisers

As well as the £7,500 raised by the community, West Dorset District Council has agreed to release £35,000 for the project, which will taken from developer contributions secured by Section 106 agreements.

The remaining amount will be taken from the town council's play area reserve fund - a total of just under £25,000 for all of the play areas operated by the town council.

Mr Savage said: "This level of funding could create a very suitable replacement adventure playground.

"Our officers will work with the community fundraisers to ensure that the new facility to be provided will meet with the aspirations of the young people of Sherborne."

Waitrose donated £700 towards the new play equipment in January through its Community Matters fund

Mr Savage said that he was "hopeful" that the new equipment, once agreed upon, could be in place by the summer holidays.

Members of the Blackberry Lane fundraising page have greeted the news with great joy.

Johanna Kemp said: "It's great and we are looking forward to getting ideas from the community about what they want in the park!"

Emma Haillay added:"This is truly fabulous news. I cannot wait to see what ideas the children come up with before final decisions are made."

Beth Oxford said: "I think it really shows the strength of the community, when everyone pitches in and helps, working together. So pleased with the result! Well done all."