Community saves Crawley play park


The determination of one young man has helped seal the future of a neighbourhood play park.

When Crawley Borough Council announced proposals to close 20 of the town’s play areas – including 11 in Bewbush – in 2012, there was an outcry.

Among those who opposed the plans was Billy Lewis, who is now 14, who did not want to see his local play area in Glanville Walk close.

Ian Weller, of the Talk Bewbush neighbourhood forum, said: “We had a couple of meetings where we asked the council to come along and explain what they had in mind.

“Billy got particularly involved because one play area is right near where he lives.

“He came to our meetings to plead with the officers not to close it. The council was saying children didn’t use it and Billy was saying they did.

“He came along with his mates and they started this little campaign on their own.”

With the weight of public opinion bearing down, the council’s proposal failed to receive approval and, following a rethink, it was announced that only four play areas in Bewbush would close.

The council also announced a £785,000 investment into the town’s existing play facilities – and it included the local community in the decision making process when it came to how some of the money was used.

Mr Weller said: “There was a small budget set aside for the community to set up a steering group, which Billy is on.”

The steering group – known as The Bewbush Play Area Panel – opted to make improvements to the Glanville Walk play area.

The panel took decisions on all aspects of the project, agreeing the final design in May which featured four new pieces of equipment and safety surfacing.

On Saturday (July 12), Billy and his friends were joined by the mayor Cllr Brenda Smith for the official opening of the upgraded play area.

Billy said: “It was great to be given this responsibility and carry-out this work on behalf of Bewbush people.

“I’m pleased with the choices we made and I thank Crawley Council for giving us the opportunity to do it.”

Cllr Chris Mullins, Cabinet member for leisure and culture, added: “It’s fantastic to see the community get involved like this.

“It’s exactly the kind of involvement we want to see more of across the town. By letting local people make the choices, we’re making sure they get what they want and I think this will really help to instil pride in their areas.”