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New play area officially opened at Downham Market's Howdale Park



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Youngsters in Downham will now be able to enjoy a brand new play area after it was officially opened on Thursday.

The revamp of Howdale Park was made possible through a £100,000 council-funded scheme, after a community campaign for improved equipment at the site.

West Norfolk Council was made aware of the project by the Friends of Howdale Play Area, who were looking to fundraise for new equipment.

Official opening of a new play area on Howdale Park Downham Market on Thursday 28th July 2022
Official opening of a new play area on Howdale Park Downham Market on Thursday 28th July 2022
Deputy Council Leader Cllr Graham Middleton welcome everyone to the play area opening
Deputy Council Leader Cllr Graham Middleton welcome everyone to the play area opening

One of the key players involved in the project was local wellbeing coach Frances Rayner, who worked with the local community to get ideas and funding for the site.

When the council heard about Frances’ campaign, they supported her to apply for £50,000 CIL funding and agreed to £50,000 match funding to enable the scheme to go ahead.

Frances said: “I am so grateful to the council for the way in which they have supported our ambition and helped us to create this scheme in such a short space of time. Without their help, this would never have happened.

Youngsters pulling the tape to officially open the new play area
Youngsters pulling the tape to officially open the new play area
Youngsters pulling the tape to officially open the new play area
Youngsters pulling the tape to officially open the new play area

“The community is absolutely thrilled to bits that we have not only been able to get a new play area but it has happened so fast – from my first conversation with the council leader it isn’t even a year.

"Everyone is so excited now that they can see the equipment in place and they can’t wait to play!”

Cllr Graham Middleton, deputy council leader, said Howdale was council land used for the benefit of people in Downham.

"When we became aware of what the Friends of Howdale Play Area were trying to do we promptly agreed to support them, and our officers designed and procured the scheme," he said.

Youngsters making use of the new play area
Youngsters making use of the new play area
Youngsters making use of the new play area
Youngsters making use of the new play area

“This resulted in us being able to deliver, within a year, a scheme that otherwise would have required several years of ambitious fundraising.

“It’s delivering a free outdoor space for children that is safe and stimulating, which we know is vital for development and wellbeing. It’s also on people’s doorsteps, which means they don’t need to get in the car to enjoy it.

Frances Rayner with her grandson Toby, 2
Frances Rayner with her grandson Toby, 2
Arthur Clifton (23 months) having fun on the new baby swings
Arthur Clifton (23 months) having fun on the new baby swings

“This is a great example of the council working with local communities to deliver a scheme that will have a range of benefits.”

And Cllr Brian Long, cabinet member for corporate services, added: “Downham Market is a growing town and it is right that we should invest in its infrastructure, which includes play equipment.

“We appreciated that Howdale, in particular, would benefit from investment as it is a well-used and well-loved play area within the town.

“Using money from the Community Infrastructure Levy and match funding from the council, we have been able to invest in an excellent scheme that will be a significant asset to local families.

“I am delighted that we have been able to make this project happen and I hope that children in Downham Market will love playing here!"

Eight young people from Nelson, Hillcrest and Denver schools, and the Swan Youth Project were nominated to open the new play park, which includes equipment aimed at a range of ages and includes apparatus suitable for children who need sensory stimulation, alongside West Norfolk Council.

There were also free ice creams for the first 100 children that arrived at the park.

Reporting by Amelia Platt



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