A group of Ilkeston parents is already planning its next playground refurbishment project after helping to land £100,000 for a site in Shipley View.
Ilkeston Parents for Play is currently waiting for work to begin at the Lagoon play area, on Barling Drive, now that Erewash Borough Council has secured funding.
Chairman Jo Ward, who lives on Barling Drive with seven-year-old daughter Ruby, said: “It’s a joint effort really. To apply for funding from WREN, and the Landfill Communities Fund, the council had to put in some money, but they also had to demonstrate that local residents were committed to the project with grassroots fundraising.
“The borough council has a list of parks which are due for regeneration, and they should be improved as a matter of course every few years.”
She added: “I’m not party to the council budget but obviously there is a lot of pressure on it now, so this is maybe the only way of getting the work done.
“Without our group, and people wanting and working to improve their local area, it would have been a nonstarter.”
The group, which numbers around 10 regular members, had already seen one successful project completed at Rutland Recreation Ground before it began fundraising for the Lagoon.
Jo said: “It was started by my old friend, Rebecca Thorley, and when she was looking at Shipley View, she asked if I would get involved because it was on my street. I only wanted to help, I didn’t know I would end up being in charge.
“We live across the road from the Lagoon, but Ruby has already grown out of it. I used to take her there a lot, but the equipment is only suitable for pre-schoolers. There are no regular swings or zip wires, and it’s all very outdated.”
Drawing on her experience as a business development manager at WB Power Services, Jo got busy finding all sorts of ways to raise money – from sponsored walks to workplace bake sales.
All told, the group raised some £2,600. When combined with £5,375 from the borough council and £4,000 from the county council, that was enough to win a £87,200 grant from WREN.
Jo said: “It would take a long time for any community to raise £100,000, and that’s really what you need for a park now because the equipment is so expensive.”
With the money now in place, the borough council will take the next steps to put the work up for tender and consult on the plans in detail.
Jo said: “The idea is that the new play area will be suitable for a broader age range, and accessible for children with disabilities too.
“The most challenging thing about all of this is that these things take a hell of long time. I’m not normally a patient person.
She added: “Once you’ve done all your sponsored walks and raised everything you need, people are understandably really keen to know what’s happening and when – but there are so many organisations involved that even we don’t always have the answers.
“We do feel proud of what we’ve achieved, but now we’re beholden to the process. We’ve had to be resilient too at times. If you’re not, then people would shut you up and you would never get anything.”
While residents’ part in the fundraising was over several months ago, the excitement for what the future holds at Shipley View is still palpable.
Resident Karen Costin said: “As parents to two young children, we are so thrilled to be having a new play area on the estate. At the minute, it’s a drive away from a decent park for kids to play on.”
Neighbour Michelle Varty said: “We are thrilled regarding the improvements secured for the Lagoon Park. It will be a fantastic asset to Shipley View as our children will have somewhere local to walk to and play.”
There are also words of praise for Parents for Play, many of whose members live elsewhere in the borough.
Emma Thorpe said: “It’s been such a long time since the children have been able to enjoy playing there. I’m extremely grateful to Joanna for all her efforts on achieving this.”
Ellis Kyle said: “My family and I are so excited, and I am so proud to be a part of Ilkeston Parents for Play, and of our community for pulling together and making this happen.”
Residents’ praise has been echoed by Erewash Borough Council, which recently honoured Parents for Play with a Mayor’s Award following a nomination by borough play inspector Tony Walker.
Jo said: “It was absolutely fantastic to receive it, and quite a surprise. “We were ecstatic to be recognised for the work everyone has done, and will continue to do for other parks in the borough.
Rebecca and I hadn’t really talked about what was next, but we were in the bank a couple of weeks ago to sort out the final money transfer, and we just looked at each other and said ‘Shall we do another one?’”
She added: “We’re going to start looking at Larklands Play Area, known locally as Potter’s Lock Park, and see if we can get families around there to get involved. We are going to have our first meeting about it on March 24.”
If all goes according to plan, Jo will have a very busy year ahead of her as she has decided to stand for election in May as a Labour councillor to represent Shipley View.
She said: “The support residents have given to this project, and the community spirit, has been heart warming.
“To see people coming together wanting to improve their area is amazing, and drives everything we have done.”
To join the Parents for Play Facebook group and find out more information about the Larklands project, go to https://goo.gl/EymZUx.