News and events News Project of the month: Catherine Street Inclusive Park and Community Garden, Dumfries The Catherine Street Inclusive Park and Community Garden project is a great example of partnership working between the local community, statutory bodies, third sector and private business facilitated by Community Asset Transfer legislation. Build commenced on 10th September 2019 and is scheduled to be complete for a very Happy and Inclusive Christmas. Background A group of people felt the park, which is located within a little pocket woodland park in Dumfries town centre, was underused by the local community and by groups who would benefit if inclusive changes were made to access and equipment. Being able to play is something that all children and young people should enjoy, regardless of ability. The design for the new inclusive space aims to enable those with disabilities to play and interact with siblings, friends and family rather than be left sitting on the side-lines. “At the heart of what we are doing is a dream to create a space which is inclusive of everyone, where children and adults feel welcome and where friendships can flourish and grow.“ Dr Andy Zieleniec, Chairman, Include Us Choice of site Early 2016 enthusiastic local parents got together to consider creating a park which was more inclusive and accessible. A working group was formed and the Catherine Street park, with play equipment in need of repair and no paved path ways for wheelchairs, was chosen by parents because of the proximity of The Usual Place Community Café. The cafe is well-used by families who have a disabled child or small children because the building is wheelchair/buggy accessible and has a Changing Places toilet. Research shows that families with disabled children will travel a significant distance to use a park if there is an accessible toilet close by and this park is close to rail and bus links on the edge of Dumfries Town Centre. Community consultation During 2017 the group carried out a six-month robust and innovative local and wider community consultation. Two spring neighbourhood meetings were held in spring after delivering 250 invitations through local doors. Summer saw a series of park play/activity days using a participatory appraisal model inviting disabled and non-disabled children, young people, parents and older people to give views about what changes they would like to see. The group learned more about inclusive play with play consultants Harry Harbottle and Theresa Casey. This learning, and the consultation outcome, informed the design brief for the landscape architect. In 2018 the plans, refined by the group, were shared in a four-day exhibition to an overwhelmingly positive response from the community. The group’s consultation process was used as a good practice example in Free to Play, published by Play Scotland, launched at the Scottish Parliament in May 2018. A report on the process can be found here Developing the project and learning by doing In 2018 the working group became the Include Us charity aiming to create an all abilities, intergenerational play and community garden. Friends of Catherine Street Play Park was also set up in 2018 which, to date, has over 100 members. During 2019 Include Us secured Planning, a Community Asset Transfer 20 year lease to manage Catherine Street play park and reached their target of £450,000 for capital and revenue funding. Donations have come from over 20 local and national organisations including a Tesco Bags of Help award, chosen by the local community, for £4,000. Local support from Hollywood Trust and Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway helped provide valuable networking opportunities. Stakeholder collaboration and co-design was a success eg. the relationships developed with inclusive play experts. There have been challenges and rewards during a busy but exciting adventure for the group. Designing around the woodland setting provided a challenge but trees continue as the standout feature. ‘The whole process of fundraising, going through the Planning/Community Asset Transfer process and undertaking our own tender and procurement was more challenging than we initially thought’ The process was a learning experience for the group which advises others to constitute a charity and develop fundamental infrastructure at an earlier stage; be clear about the cost of professional fees and build communication and support links with the Local Authority. Future activities All year-round activities and events for intergenerational activity and learning will be supported by the Development Manager and Community Gardener. A Modern Apprentice will be mentored, along with local children and volunteers, in horticulture and park maintenance, establishing a space where people learn the importance of nature and improve understanding and empathy between generations. Volunteering and employment opportunities for young people with additional needs will help to improve their mental health, life skills and employability chances. Wider outcomes During the regeneration, Dumfries and Galloway parent groups influenced the Council to ringfence funding towards development of six inclusive play spaces. Nationally, Include Us want to influence legislation and policy changes so that ALL children and young people have opportunities to play from an early age and all parks are suitable for all children including those with disabilities.