Future of Norwich park in the spotlight

Norwich families have helped come up with suggestions on how to spend almost �200,000 to improve one of the city's best-loved parks.

The chance for improvements to Chapelfield Gardens has come about because companies getting permission to build new developments are required to pump cash into community facilities.

That means there is �191,566 in what are known as section 106 contributions, which are ring-fenced to be spent in the popular park, with work starting in two years' time.

On Saturday officers from the city council's neighbourhood, landscape and parks and open spaces teams were out and about in the park to quiz park users on what they would like to see done there.

The information gathered will be used to draw up plans with further consultation next year and work set to start in 2012.

Children were asked to attach stickers next to the sort of equipment they would like to see in a park, such as nest swings, carousels, boulders to climb on and spinners.

Jeff Compton, community engagement officer at Norwich City Council, said: 'We've had quite a diverse range of suggestions, around things like more provision for older children and upgrading the play equipment we have.

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'People really like the park and it has generated a lot of interest. Some people are concerned that we are looking to turn the park into some kind of monster, but that is not the plan at all.'

Work is also being done with the friends group, businesses, youth groups and schools to help get the views of local people.

Currently there is a toddler and juniors' play area with games of petanque and giant chess and drafts.

The gardens are also a popular venue, particularly in the summer, when there are events including bandstand concerts, and an annual music festival and funfair.

While the money is to be used to improve spaces for children and young people, the gardens are also important for a wide variety of people and activities and the council is keen to make sure that a wide range of views are considered.

Among those who filled in questionnaires and added stickers to the charts was Phil Walters, who lives off Unthank Road with his daughter Bella, two-and-a-half. He said: 'I think it just needs a bit of updating on the kid's play areas and maybe something a bit more for children who are a bit older. I've got a nine-year-old as well and the play area there is a bit too young for them.'

Oli Matthews, from Earlham Road, said his daughter Erin loved Chapelfield Gardens and was always asking him to take her to play there.

He said: 'I think it's a good idea to improve it a bit, although the children's play area is lovely. I'd like to see it freshened up a bit.

'I think it's right that there needs to be something else for the older children, but not at the expense of the play area for the younger ones.

'That play area is perfect for the little ones, so if there's going to be one for older children then it needs to be near it, but not to replace it.'

Since it first opened to the public in 1880, Chapelfield Gardens has become a popular meeting place for thousands of people across Norwich and beyond.

People who could not make the event on Saturday can still email their suggestions to jeffcompton@norwich.gov.uk

• How would you improve Chapelfied Gardens? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk