Council backflips on $2 million playground move after months of community backlash

A Melbourne council has caved into community pressure and finally responded to complaints from residents over the costly children's park upgrade last year.

Cambridge St Reserve in Collingwood in Melbourne prior to the upgrades.
Cambridge St Reserve in Collingwood in Melbourne prior to the upgrades. Source: Supplied

A local council has caved into community pressure and voted to reinstate play equipment which was removed from a popular children's park late last year, which parents say transformed the outdoor space into a "prison".

The much-loved playground in Collingwood, in Melbourne's inner city, was demolished in November in a huge $2 million "upgrade" that took months to complete. But despite becoming the suburb's biggest playground, frustrated parents slammed the changes at Cambridge St Reserve.

The upgrade was dubbed a huge "failure" by parents and nearby residents who argued the park is no longer "inviting for children".

Before the renovation, the park featured a wide range of equipment including a slide, spring rider, swing set, and a jungle gym compared to the finished upgrade. The new design now features a single swing and a lonely set of gym bars which some parents say is "unreachable".

"It's not very inviting for children," one mum said after seeing the park for the first time. "[My daughter] honestly takes one look at it and runs in the other direction." Others said the space now reminded them of a "prison" courtyard.

Cambridge St Reserve in Collingwood in Melbourne after to the $2 million upgrade.
Cambridge St Reserve in Collingwood in Melbourne after the $2 million upgrade. Source: Supplied

Six months after locals launched a petition to have "Melbourne's saddest playground" returned to its former glory, councillors have heard their pleas and overnight voted to reinstall the original equipment. Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, petition starter Gaynor said the vote was a "great outcome and victory".

"We are delighted the City of Yarra Council voted to reinstate play equipment [at the] Cambridge Street Park with a budget of $250,000," Gaynor said. "Congratulations to the people who signed my petition — we all came together, and we made a difference.

"This is a great outcome and victory. I had no idea how political it would be to try and fight for the necessities of what a council should deliver, but I'm glad the Council has heard the community loud and clear."

It's not clear exactly when the original equipment will be reinstalled.

Last year, a spokesperson for the City of Yarra Council told Yahoo News that the upgrades were part of an urban initiative to "increase green spaces in the area". They said at the time that "only five of the 171 people" who responded to plans regarding the upgrade "requested traditional play equipment".

"After consulting with the local community about creating a new pocket park in Collingwood the vast majority told us they wanted more green open space where they could relax," the spokesperson said.

"In a suburb such as Collingwood which only has 0.3 per cent open space, expanding the size of the park was a major driver for the park’s design. Council has responded to the needs of the community by building a new park that is double its original size."

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