People power transforms Valence Park

London Sport has helped a mother claim back her local park, involving local residents and young people in the designs for a new, inclusive public space.

Identifying the need to improve the Valence Park facilities

Three years ago, the park facilities in Valance Park, including the popular basketball court, were in a pitiful state – old, uninspiring, vandalised and with any broken equipment removed but not replaced due to a lack of council funds.

Lisa Adams, a local resident and mother, knew from speaking to neighbours and parents that that people can’t always afford to travel to a better park. So she decided it was important to improve the facilities at Valence.

Mobilising the community

Adams engaged with the local MP, councillors and local charity Community Resources.

In a survey of park users, she identified that 82 per cent thought that the current basketball court needed to be refurbished. Teenagers using the park said they would like a new basketball court but didn’t believe things would change. Adams felt that before the young children’s play equipment was replaced, the basketball court had to be improved to demonstrate to the local young people that their ideas have worth and they are listened to.  

The support of London Sport

The project came to the attention of London Sport via the director of Community Resources Avril McIntyre. London Sport agreed support, being excited by the engagement it had attracted to date.

London Sport’s relationship manager Matt Roebuck says, “A few months earlier, I’d pulled together the Urban Sports Group; a collective of organisations, commercial, young lifestyle and mass-participation national governing bodies of sport and third-sector policy or campaign groups to look at how we might better adapt our city landscape for sport, and our sport for city landscapes. I agreed with Lisa, that if she could run consultation events and generate enthusiasm, feedback and ideas for this project, then I would pull together members of the Urban Sports Group, who could provide Lisa with the tools and knowledge to inform and educate the community on the decisions they would be making,” explains Roebuck.


Design partners

Urban Sports Group members PlayInnovation and
The Great Outdoor Gym Company came on board after one meeting, producing free designs for the project as more than 400 residents were engaged in a consultation process. 

Central to Lisa and Avril’s vision was a space where the Valence community of all generations could mix and play together, a genuine multi-use games area.

PlayInnovation used these ideas to develop various designs for the park and people were asked to choose their preferred option.


The design

See the fly through

A social activity hub suitable for the whole family has been created that includes:

Inclusive sport and play
Playinnovation transformed the old play area with it’s adjacent basketball court into a family inclusive sport and play area where children, young people and adults could feel inspired to visit, stay active and co-exist in a safe community environment.

The playground therefore benefits from colourful multi play units, swings for all ages and abilities, an inclusive roundabout and toddler zones for role play.

Gym zone
To the far side of the playground, a line of architectural spheres and blocks lead to a smart gym zone from The Great Outdoor Gym Company, where users can use a free app to log and track their workouts. In addition, the equipment gathers smart data on the usage and analyses the data which can be collected to prove a return on investment.

Games facilities
Adjacent to the gym zone is an outdoor table tennis table which is already in good use by local children and parents. 

The park also features a Playinnovation Hype Court with transparent backboards and hoops designed to create a basketball court with wow factor. The court is in near constant use by local players. ‘The Right Development Foundation’ founded by London Lions star Lamar Roberts, will be funded by London Sport to deliver a Sport England Satellite Club from the location.

A family area of fun and educational target games
This features Crossbar King, Goal Master, Street Pool and a Wallball. This zone also has an additional basketball post and backboard in funky translucent yellow acrylic which reflects the sunlight onto the tarmac at various times of the day.

Funding support

The project was made possible thanks to a variety of funding sources.

“I supported Lisa and Avril through the first bids to key funders such as Veolia and the London Marathon Charitable Trust, but they led on the pulling together of those applications. By the last few, they didn’t need to refer to me anymore, which is great. 
My job is to be a catalyst, before moving on to support someone else,” says Roebuck.

The funding totalled £269,598:

  • £140,000 The London Marathon Charitable Trust.
    (The London Marathon Charitable Trust also provided a further £10,000 to help meet the cost of providing organised sport and recreation sessions at the new facility).
  • Veolia (£59,999)
  • Sport England (£25,000)
  • Crowdfunding (£5,599) and match funding from Barking and Dagenham Council (£39,000). 
  • Table Tennis England donated a Ping! Table.

Lessons learnt

“From a London Sport perspective, we’ve learned a lot about the process of ‘working with’ rather than ‘working for’. We’ve been able to share the experiences of Avril and Lisa across London, hopefully to influence how other boroughs consider their park redevelopments, healthy streets or really any spaces that can be used for informal sport,” says Roebuck.

Officers are keen to support other community-led initiatives who might wish to emulate Valence Park - be that in their local park, or one of the many green spaces across the borough that might be re-imagined as a pocket park.

His advice for those seeking to take this approach is to consider the rules around recipients of capital funding and the procurement process, neither of which are particularly supportive of this approach.

“As a community, you may have done all this work, but the council will have to put in the application because they are the landowner, which can also restrict the funds for which you’re eligible. This process also requires the funder to accept the approach and general plan for the construction rather than the exact details.

“Such a community-led process requires working closely with a provider who is prepared to draw up multiple designs, and be flexible to consultation, and ultimately to funding decisions. This means a lot of work must be done on faith, and with one designer. It was a good thing that Lisa and Avril had received quotes from other play equipment providers before engaging PlayInnovation to support this process. This was because even though the money had been secured by the community, because of this approach, it was officially awarded to the local authority and they are of course bound by procurement rules.”

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