Playgrounds FAQ

If you have questions about Council's parks and playgrounds regarding safety standards, upgrading and maintenance, you may find answers to your questions below. If you still have more questions, contact Council's Help and Service Centre on 9777 1000.

Are playgrounds safe?

The playgrounds are designed to provide a range of graded challenges for all users, so carers need to be responsible for which activities and challenges those in their care are tackling.

Weekly, quarterly and comprehensive annual safety audits of all playgrounds are carried out by specialist external contractors. Undersurfacing, fall zones and equipment are inspected during these audits, and a classification system helps determine a priority assigned to each maintenance requirement reported.

A programme of playground upgrades is in place, and each upgrade includes improvements to the undersurfacing, equipment and layout.

Australian Standards relating to playgrounds, whilst not mandatory, are used to guide playground development and include:

  • AS 4685: Playground Equipment (Parts 1-6);
  • AS/NZS 4422: Playground Surfacing: Specifications, requirements & test methods;
  • AS/NZS 4486.1: Playgrounds and Playground Equipment - Development, installation, inspection, maintenance and operation;
  • AS 1428.1-4: Design for Access and Mobility Parts 1-4

Only playground equipment suppliers that certify they conform with Australian Standards are employed by Council.

“Safer By Design” and “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design” principles are used when planning playground upgrades. These principles aim to minimise crime and anti social behaviour including vandalism and graffiti, and help to ensure park and playground users feel that they are in a safe environment. The principles include fostering a strong sense of community ownership of parks, provision of security lighting in appropriate locations, maximising casual surveillance from surrounding properties and providing clear entrances, exits and pathways through the parks.

Why are some playgrounds fenced and others not?

Playgrounds are only fenced if there is a potential hazard such as a busy road, carpark, water, bike path, steep drop, sportsground or off leash dog exercise area nearby. Alternatives such as plants are used if appropriate. Facilities such as seating and shade are provided inside the fence to encourage an appropriate supervision level by carers.

How is shade provided in playgrounds?

Provision of shade for children and carers is considered when playgrounds are designed and upgraded. Natural shade from evergreen or deciduous trees is preferable to shade sails, but sails are installed if shade is inadequate and trees cannot provide shade within a suitable timeframe. For example, 2 sails have been installed at Denawen Park.

For what age range do playgrounds cater?

In general, playgrounds cater for children in the 0-14 age range. It is difficult to categorise equipment and activities provided as suitable for a specific age range, as children of the same age vary greatly in their physical and other abilities. Where possible a variety of graded challenges is provided in each playground rather than age appropriate equipment.

Some equipment can however be considered appropriate for a general age group such as spring rockers for younger children and climbing walls and flying foxes for older children.

How many playgrounds are there in the Willoughby City Council area?

There are 41 playgrounds spread throughout the area.

Why is bark mulch used as undersurfacing (softfall) in playgrounds?

Playground bark mulch (conforming to Australian Standards) is used as undersurfacing in most playgrounds, with rubber used in high wear areas under individual pieces of equipment such as swings, slides and spinners. The mulch is used in preference to sand and rubber as it is best at absorbing impact, and therefore has the most potential for reducing possible injury in the event of a fall.

Sand is used by cats and is an easier material in which to conceal objects.

Bark mulch undersurfacing can be topped up and aerated as required to meet appropriate Australian Standards.

Why are sandstone boulders used in playgrounds?

In addition to defining areas and containing softfall, sandstone boulders provide opportunities for challenging and fun play, and add to the natural materials used in playgrounds. One of Council’s aims is to include a broad range of textures, materials and sensory elements in playgrounds, so that children can engage in diverse physical experiences. Children’s balancing skills are tested when they make their way along a boulder border or use the boulders as stepping stones. The stones can also be a good place to sit and rest, talk or watch. Sharp exposed edges are hewn from the boulders used in playgrounds.

Are playgrounds accessible to all?

Council’s aim is to integrate accessibility into playgrounds in a way that does not isolate children or carers with disabilities or require them to use exclusive pieces of equipment. Improvements in playgrounds accessibility make it easier for people with eg mobility, vision and stamina problems, and also people pushing prams to enjoy the facilities.

Locating play equipment, seating, picnic settings and bubblers next to pathways, and providing wide, clear paths and kerb ramps are design considerations incorporated into playground upgrade plans where possible. Willoughby Park, Bicentennial Reserve, Hallstrom Park, Chatswood Park and Bales Park have been identified as parks particularly suitable for modifying to improve accessibility, including the playgrounds. One of the swings at Bales Park is specially constructed so that it can be swung with arm movements only if necessary. When seats, tables and bubblers are upgraded at these parks, designs are chosen for their ease of access, and compliance with Australian Standard for Access and Mobility, and disabled access carspaces and toilets are provided.

Action strategies in the Council’s Disability Discrimination Act Action Plan, February 2007 (developed following the Commonwealth Government DDA introduced in 1992) which are relevant to playgrounds are included in the Playground Development Plan.

Can playgrounds be booked?

Council’s playgrounds are provided for all members of the community to use, and it is not possible to book them for exclusive use by a particular group.

Are playgrounds ever closed?

In the past, playgrounds have only very occasionally not been available for use, due to maintenance requirements in the playground or nearby. Notification of future closures is provided on site, unless the maintenance is needed urgently. If a piece of equipment is found to need attention during safety inspections, it will be roped off until repaired.

Are dogs allowed in playgrounds?

Dogs are not permitted within 10m of playgrounds, whether or not on a leash. This is stated on the triangular regulatory signs in all parks, and also on separate signs in some playgrounds.

Can children ride their bikes in playgrounds?

Many playgrounds include designated “trike tracks” so that young children can practise bike riding. The most extensive track which includes traffic signs, is located at Hallstrom Park. Most new playground upgrades include a loop trike track where space permits, as requests for tracks are often received in feedback from community consultation. Often access paths connecting different features of a park, paths between pieces of equipment in a playground, or other areas of hard surface, double up as a trike track.

What kinds of experiences can be enjoyed by children and carers in Council’s playgrounds?

Council aims to provide innovative, challenging and creative play equipment and play spaces which provide a variety of activities and types of play catering for a range of needs and abilities.

“Traditional” equipment is provided for physical activities such as rocking, swinging, spinning, sliding, climbing and balancing.

Creative play spaces are provided by using planting, sand-pits, mounding, rock features, textured and patterned pathways and surfaces, and sound sculptures, and by incorporating artwork into new and existing play environments in varied ways eg pathway mosaics, climbing sculptures, special seats and cubbyhouses.

A diversity of natural and recycled materials are used to create spaces that encourage exploration, adventure, discovery and construction (eg sandstone boulders, sand pits, timber bridges).

Examples of these elements are the sandstone sculptures and totem pole carved from a dead tree trunk at Beauchamp Park, plants, rocks and a short loop track into bushland at Castle Cove Park, a “musical tyre” and tunnel at Willoughby Park, sand, water pump, leaf shaped seat, leaf shaped lawn and leaf impressions in a pathway at Naremburn Park, a bamboo tunnel and water pump at Warners Park, mosaics, a bronze water dragon and stainless steel creatures at Muston Park, mosaic pathway patterns at Chatswood Park, and sandstone animals, sense activated sound boxes, a “musicosaurus”, waterpump, sand, rocks and plantings at Hallstrom Park.

Where space allows, open grass areas are provided for more informal play such as ball games, crawling and running. Playgrounds encourage social interaction between children and other children, and carers and other carers.

Associated facilities such as seating and picnic facilities make the area suitable for family celebrations, Council events and meeting of parents groups.

How can I be involved in playground design?

Community consultation is included in all park landscape improvement plans. Residents living in the vicinity of the park have the chance then to submit ideas and requests for the park, including playgrounds.

How are playgrounds developments/improvements funded?

Funding for upgrades of parks and playgrounds is derived from “Section 94” funds and/or Council revenue. A Section 94 Plan (S94) is a funding mechanism which lets Council levy funds from developers to build the extra public amenities and services that will be required as a result of their development.

Applications are also made when State Government grants (such as NSW Sport and Recreation grants) are offered for playground development.

How are playground upgrades prioritised and what determines the extent of upgrades?

Playground upgrades are carried out according to Council’s Playground Development Plan (1998, currently being updated 2008/2009). The plan prioritises upgrades according to demographics (using the most recent Census figures), the age and extent of existing facilities in an area and playground classifications.

Playgrounds are classified as regional, district or local, defined as follows:

  • Regional: Serving more than one local government area where users will be prepared to drive significant distances.
  • District: Typically attracting visitors from one local government area where users will normally not drive more than 15-30 minutes.
  • Local: Catering to a local area where users predominantly walk or cycle to use the facility.

The number of pieces of play equipment is also dependent on the space available for the layout of equipment to be designed so that there is a suitable safe “fall zone” around each piece, and travel paths are free from obstruction.

Where can I find more information about playgrounds?

You can find out which facilities (including toilets, barbeques and parking) are available at each park and playground here.

Information about upgrades to parks and playgrounds will be listed under Current Work.