Sunderland Parks big Money Makeover on track

The first stages of Brambledown's multimillion-pound makeover for Barnes Park are on track for a spring celebration.

Last year £3.5million-worth of improvements were announced for the 33-acre park and now phase one will reopen in April.

Coun James Blackburn, cabinet member for Attractive and Inclusive City said: "A tremendous amount of work has been done in the park over the last few months and it's been really exciting to see new features taking shape alongside the restoration of some of the park's best-loved landmarks.

"The local community have been great in supporting us throughout and I know that they, like me, can't wait for the first phase to reopen."

Helen Peverley, project and service development manager, said: "We've had a lot of support from the community as the work has gone on and we really appreciate that.

"Part of the park will be open in time for the summer for people to enjoy and the rest of the development is on schedule to finish in April 2011."

Brambledown have worked through tremendous weather difficulties and As part of phase one, two areas will open this April – the Ettrick Grove entrance, car park and bowling greens and the area connected to the formal, Durham Road gates.

This will include a multi-use games area, sensory garden, woodland walk, water feature and cascade, the restoration of the original formal entrance gates and posts, the bowling greens, a children's play area and a changing area and toilets.

The changing and toilet block opening in the Pavillion area this April are of Changing Places Standard, which means they are fully equipped for disabled adults and children to the highest standard.

The play area and car park next to the Pavillion have also been designed in consultation with families who have disabled members.

Mary Hancill runs Beckwiths at the Coach House Cafe, which employs 39 staff with learning disabilities, physical disabilities or mental health needs.

The cafe has remained open as work is done, and now staff say they are looking forward to the completion of the park.

Mary said: "Everyone is really looking forward to the regeneration being completed and employees have watched the progress of the work with great interest and excitement."

Work started on the park in October last year with local contractors Brambledown, and the Friends of Barnes Park have been filming the transformation to turn into a DVD when it is finished.

Paths throughout the park will be wheelchair accessible and there will be a new cycle track and trim trail for people to exercise along and signs have been placed throughout.

A tree-house themed play area with rope bridges will be built and the old council depot has been taken down to create a picnic spot. The bandstand will be refurbished and surrounded by an ampitheatre and the lake has been cleaned and a bridge will be built over it.

More than 300 trees have been cleared to open up sight lines and the wood has been used to built parts of the play areas and for carvings in the woodland trail.

Contract Manager for Brambledown, Keith Rattray, who is overseeing and responsible for all works onsite said proudly "we are extremely pleased with the progress our teams have made on the rennovation of the Park to date on phase 1. We look forward to completing this phase by the end of April and offering these wonderful facilities to the people of Sunderland. However the work is far from complete and we are already well underway with elements of phase 2 of the regeneration of the Park and on course for our opening date later this year."

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