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Council of the Week: Bracknell Town Council
Bracknell Town Council is in the top ten of local councils by size, with a budget of £2.1m and serving 56,000 residents. The council is responsible for over 250 acres of public recreational and leisure space and 32 parks and children's play areas. It manages the usual range of services and facilities provided in our sector, such as having environment wardens, providing various grants, preparing a neighbourhood plan and running facilities such as football and rugby pitches, synthetic pitches, tennis courts and cricket squares. Pavilions in a number of parks provide coffee shop facilities, toilets and halls for hire. The council also manages eight allotment sites and a cemetery.
The council is notable in working relatively closely and collaboratively with others including Bracknell Forest Council, a Berkshire unitary, on a number of local initiatives and projects, towards a shared goal of making a Bracknell a great place to live, and one of the best rated places in the country, even before the town gets it a new £200m town centre opening in Spring 2017. This approach includes the Town Clerk being part of the active Bracknell Partnership Board.
The council is nearing completion of the construction of a splashpad which will be opened during May. This will provide water jets combined with two shallow splash areas at Jocks Lane Park. Water will be recycled and used for plant irrigation, washing bus shelters and cleaning seats and play areas. Additional improvements are also being made to adjacent tennis courts, including installing new floodlights. These improvements are being partially funded by S106 contributions. Jocks Lane has also won the national 'Loo of the Year' competition in the parks category for the refurbished toilets in the pavilion and is one of the Council's 'Green Flag' parks.
In the last two years, Bracknell, through its town council led Bracknell in Bloom partnership, has represented the RHS Thames and Chilterns region in Britain in Bloom. Success has been achieved by the effective partnership working with the Borough Council, Bracknell Forest Homes, Bracknell Regeneration Partnership and community organisations including the Horticultural Association and Bracknell Forest Society. For the coming year, plans include projects to rejuvenate the environment at two of Bracknell's neighbourhood centres in Wildridings and Priestwood, with a number of initiatives being progressed, involving the local schools, planting of shrub beds, installing planters on paved areas, opening a coffee shop, re-decorating buildings, painting/ murals on walls, picnic benches, better lighting, a wheelie bin store and better signage. These improvements are being largely funded by councillors who have contributed from their own 'members initiative' funding towards the improvement of these neighbourhoods, following the success achieved in another of our Bracknell neighbourhoods, Harmans Water, last year. Under the umbrella of Bracknell in Bloom, there is also a successful 'your gardens' competition, with a number of categories, including one for whole streets to enter themselves.
Over the last year, the council has refurbished a third of its 34 play areas across the town. The council has again benefited from councillors funding many of the recent equipment installations from their shares of Bracknell Forest Council's Member's Initiative Fund. This has included the installation of an outside music mixing deck, the first in the country, in its flagship Mill Park, following refurbishment of the pavilion there last year, and a major refurbishment of the play and outdoor gym equipment the year before. This is creating a lot of interest locally.
Recently, also at Mill Park, grounds staff have created circular seating/ climbing logs, made from trees felled nearby. The council has an ongoing programme for maintenance of the forest areas in and around the town, and recycles all wood obtained, for example as equipment, seats or wood chip in play areas.
The council is currently exploring initial design ideas for a complete rebuild of one of its main pavilions, in Great Hollands, in which locally made outdoor gym equipment is currently being installed.
Like many town councils, the council runs a large number of events through the year. The council again ran a successful 'woodland' activity day in February, featuring a number of demonstrations of skills and activities. In the summer, activity days are run each week in different parks across the town. These attract large numbers of families. A particular favourite is the annual Teddy Bears picnic. The council will also be supporting the Bracknell Lions in running the Bracknell Show at our Wildridings playing fields in June.
The council provides well regarded and price competitive services to neighbouring local (town and parish) councils, and schools, locally. The skills of the grounds maintenance team are much in demand in grass cutting, play equipment assembly and surfacing, such as tiger mulch.
The council also has two Environment Wardens, who patrol the Councils green spaces, as well as visiting schools to convey their messages. They have introduced a number of initiatives, including establishing and operating Dog Control Orders in all parks. They have also led sessions in which children have been able to learn how to fish, as well as activities such as pond dipping and nature conservation.