I used to run a feature here on the blog called “The Skatepark Situation”. I’ve decided to bring it back for this one off analysis of an article in the Coventry Observer. The article is about the War Memorial Ramp Renovation campaign, and their call for council help to improve the skatepark. Long time visitors to this blog will know 10 years ago we were campaigning for the exact same thing.
The article has quotes from an un-named (surprise surprise) council spokesperson who is quoted with excuses for why Covpark has not been improved at all since it’s initial build in 2001. I’m now going to use my extensive knowledge of the campaign to improve Covpark to show why these excuses are just plain not good enough.
“All areas are regularly inspected and all are maintained in a safe and usable condition.” & “
All play areas are regularly inspected and maintained.”
This is simply not true, especially where skateparks are concerned. Here’s a list of where the council has dropped the ball on maintaining skateparks;
- Lips at the bottoms of ramps, and between panels at Covpark are a trip hazard for skateboards, and are not safe. The council were informed of this 10 years ago and to this day still haven’t fixed it properly. When I raised this initially I had council employees tell me they had no idea this was such a problem for skateboarders, and they promised to learn more about it and fix it.
- The damage done to Holbrooks bowls has never been properly repaired, and will likely never be as good as it was when the park opened. A bad concrete job is not ensuring a skatepark is in a safe and usable condition, and nor is ignoring the litter and leaves that piles up in the bowl.
- The god awful emulsion paint that youth workers splatted all over Alan Higgs, making it slippy, was never investigated by the council or the Alan Higgs centre.
There is more than enough ample evidence that the council do not inspect or maintain the skateparks in Coventry. Are the council simply not checking skateparks, or do they just not know whether a skatepark is safe or not? Probably both.
“Budgets are still limited and further central government cuts in funding are likely which clearly limits our ability to undertake all the refurbishment work we would like.”
Once again, we have never asked the council to foot the bill for a new skatepark. At most we wanted match funding, which meant skateboarders would still be doing the hard work of finding funding. We need access to funding grants, and we need council support, guidance and backing on finding and applying for these grants. It’s been the same story for 10 years now. This is also a hard sell for young people who have seen new skateparks pop up all over the country, with the next town over (Leamington) successfully getting a new park built in recent years. “There isn’t enough money” sounds like bullshit when every other area seems to be getting parks built far more easily. These are young people who don’t understand how funding grants work, and they need the help of adults who know this stuff inside and out (and whose job it is specifically to know about raising funds for public facilities!!!) in order to make sure they don’t have to worry about “funding cuts”. This leads me onto the next point…
“We often rely on Section 106 monies (compensation) from new developments to fund major refurbishments or improvements.” & “
We will also work with local organisations on external funding applications to refurbish their local play facilities.”
As far as I am aware no compensation from new housing developments was used to fund a skatepark in Coventry. I can also attest to the council’s lack of guidance and support on building a skatepark. When they say they “work” with local organisations, what they mean is they wash their hands of it and expect young people with minimal experience to get bogged down in bureaucratic red tape until they get bored and give up. What they mean is that they lead young people on and tell them they are all up for building a new skatepark, but when it comes to the red tape and planning permission they lead everyone round in circles rather than removing the road blocks put in place by contradicting departments in the council. If they were so committed to “working with local organisations” then every attempt we have made to get a new skatepark built would’ve succeeded.
“With over 400 sites across the city there is a lot of sites to maintain and develop.”
None of these sites has been a skatepark, so this statement rings hollow.
“Just one decent sized skate feature can cost between £40,000-60,000.”
This is (pardon my french) utter bullshit, and written by someone with no knowledge of skateparks. This price has been pulled out of their arse, or even worse, taken from a Bendcrete rep (who the council were specifically told never to use again for a skatepark). From those involved with Covpark’s build (Jim The Skin, Steve Spain, Phil Hunt), I was told that skatepark cost £40,000 to build, with an alarming £100,000 spent on consultation that quite simply wasn’t needed. Covpark is, as the council have been told time and time again, not a decent sized park, and not a decent park full stop. Leamington cost £110,000, and whilst offers a unique, fun and interesting design, many would argue it is still too small given the local number of users. A decent sized park for the number of skateboarders, BMXers and scooter riders in Coventry would cost upward of £300,000. This kind of cost is totally achievable and has been achieved by many community groups stretching the width and breadth of the country, again with council help, support and backing. The problem has always been a complete lack of real interest from the council, and their ability to fob skateboarders off with vague promises again and again whilst local skaters do the hard work and raise the funds.
It’s not secret the government have been stripping youth services apart to the point where we have an increase in anti-social behaviour and crime. It’s obvious that if you remove the ability for young people to keep themselves busy and active and give them piss poor facilities they will find other things to occupy their time. If you don’t provide skateboarders with good facilities they will find their own spots to skate, and if you ignore skateboarders like Coventry City Council have done for TEN BLOODY YEARS then you get new generations giving you bad press for your run down crappy skatepark in the local paper. We’re all tired of this conversation. The conversation isn’t going away. Support the improvement of Covpark, support the Coventry Skatepark Project, help these people get a great skatepark built, and stop making lame excuses.
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