By now most Whitstable people will have received a letter from Canterbury City Council about the Cornwallis Circle play area.
It was addressed non-specifically to The Resident and has gone to almost every household in Whitstable…. including some that don’t yet exist, some that have long-ceased to exist, and some that never existed in the first place.
I would love to see their stamp bill for this one mass mail-out. It must be several thousand pounds at least. This is compounded by the fact that included with the questionnaire is a stamped addressed envelope, meaning they have paid for the return stamp too.
The letter says that the council wants to hear your views about upgrading the play area, and that replies to the letter will be used to help with the design. Work is due to begin during the winter of 2009, and to be completed by spring 2010.
It also offers tickets to win £50 worth of shopping vouchers as a way of encouraging you to reply to the letter.
The questionnaire itself is fairly straightforward. It is a series of multiple choice questions. It asks you how many children there are in your household, how many children visit your household, and the age of the children in both categories.
After this it asks when the children use the play areas. During the daytime? Before or after nursery? Before or after school? In the evenings? At the weekend? In the holidays? When visiting the area?
Then it asks you to fill in a space saying how you would like the play area to be improved, and asks if you have ever accessed the council website to find out information about play areas.
Finally it asks you if you would like to be invited to a consultation event in the autumn when designs for the play area will be finalised.
One very puzzling thing: it also contains a link to what it describes as a “children and young people’s website”, www.notbored.org. But if you follow the link what you come across instead is an “autonomous, situationist-inspired, low-budget, irregularly published, photocopied journal” which appears to be published out of the United States.
It’s an anarchist journal. Perhaps Canterbury City Council have some secret anarchist political agenda?
Or perhaps someone in the council offices has just made a mistake in transcribing the web address?
I don’t know: is it just me, or do I detect a hint of paranoia in this letter? It’s not that they want to find the answer to these questions, it’s the sheer volume of letters they have sent out in order to do so.
I wasn’t joking when I said that they have sent out letters to addresses that have never existed. I’ve attempted to deliver them.
They’ve also sent out letters to businesses in Whitstable, as if garages, double-glazing installers and builders’ merchants should have the right to an opinion too.
In my vainer moments I’m inclined to think that the reason the council have gone to such lengths to consult on this matter is because of an earlier article I wrote. You’ll remember that. I was complaining about the lack of consultation before the removal of the climbing frame in Westmeads rec.
So, having failed to consult at all about that, it seems they are now over compensating by asking the opinion of every man, woman and child in Whitstable…. including some that don’t yet exist, some that have long-ceased to exist, and some that never existed in the first place.
Actually in that article I was complaining about the lack of consultation with the users, meaning the kids. I was never asking that building merchants, double-glazing installers and every Tom, Dick and Harry in Whitstable should also have a say.
But something strikes me at this point.
Haven’t they just chopped down the climbing frame in Westmeads?
And now they’re planning to start work on rebuilding the play area in Cornwallis Circle too, meaning that for several months at least there will be no usable play area anywhere in Whitstable.
Perhaps this explains their over-zealousness.
Having destroyed one play area, they are just about to make another unusable.
But Cornwallis Circle is a lovely play area. It has two climbing frames, two slides, two sets of swings, a roundabout, a see-saw, a wooden platform and a basket ball pitch, all of them in perfectly good condition. My niece Beatrix loves it.
If they have money to spend, surely it would be better spent in rebuilding the climbing frame in Westmeads and repairing the other facilities, which are now looking decidedly dilapidated.
Or is this just another case of council inefficiency?