Emerging ProjectProgressed Project

Play Masterplan

Idea: Play improvements masterplan for Old Courthouse Recreation Grounds/ Park

A shared vision that identifies short and long-term projects to encourage inter-generational play, and increase usage and visibility of the park. Making the most of the Old Courthouse Park to encourage people to stay longer in the town centre, becoming a destination of play which attracts people from further afield for the day. With the Courthouse Cafe, tennis courts and a bowling green with a pavilion already within the park, and key neighbours such as Barnet and Southgate Council and Barnet Museum, there is an opportunity to incorporate a diverse and community-led offer, alongside any council improvements.

Improvements at the park could be extended to Chipping Barnet’s wider green assets, as well as leftover space around the high street and in front of schools, creating a Play Masterplan for the whole town centre. Particularly relevant here as the town is surrounding by such extensive open and greenspace.

Why it is useful:

  • Work towards delivering Barnet’s pledge to be a Child Friendly Borough
  • Promote increased intergenerational use of the town centre
  • Bring together local civic institutions including Old Courthouse Cafe, Barnet and Southgate College, Barnet Museum, Barnet Environmental Centre and other green groups contributing skills to improve the natural habitats
  • Improve the legibility of the park from the high street

Who needs to be involved:

  • Form a ‘Friends of Old Courthouse Park’ group: Form to co-lead with the council / fundraise
  • Council: Co-lead / Site owner / Co-funder
  • Stakeholders: Old Courthouse Cafe, Barnet and Southgate Council, Barnet Museum Barnet Environment Centre etc
  • Local green groups: Consult / Volunteer
  • External consultants/specialist in play furniture

How to get started:

Co-develop a masterplan for the Old Courthouse Recreation Grounds, for example:


  • Create an entranceway to park & improve way-finding with a gateway entrance on Wood Street 
  • Provide incidental/natural play interventions throughout the park (start small to allow prototyping)
  • Improve park infrastructure (cycle stands etc.) 
  • Open up the Old Couthouse Cafe to strengthen the connection to the play area.  Better integration of the cafe will make it more visible, offer direct access to the play park area, and increase passive surveillance (well designed visual connections will aid the park’s security)
  • The council could review park closing policy for potential evening uses hosted by the cafe or other neighbouring stakeholders, such as the museum or college
  • Encourage and support community organisations, groups and the Old Couthouse Cafe to host events and activities in the park, increasing both footfall and vibrancy to the park


  • Create a destination playground – upgrade play facilities to adventure play and separate younger soft play, e.g. nature play and other more bespoke forms of play reflecting the ‘wild natural’ character of the surrounding open space
  • Develop a forest school and distributed play activities across the town centre with Barnet Environment Centre and King George Playing Fields and other opportunity sites.


  • Introduce new entrances to park to improve permeability (from college and from Manor Road) 
  • Improve green link running from Dollis Valley Estate to high street
  • Look at creating new community facilities within the park, for example, combining facilities such as toilets, classroom, cafe, indoor play, tool storage etc. (potentially hosted by the cafe).
  • Potential of the Old Courthouse as a key building between the high street and park, if the Council’s use of the building (coroner’s court and offices) changes, the new use should promote better access to the park and offer public access/community facilities.

Viability considerations:

  • Funding: Council + crowd-funding + volunteer time and skills + ongoing management
  • Sites: Council owned park
  • Play furniture could be co-designed and built with young people

Example: Myatt’s Fields Park Project

Myatt’s Fields Park is run by a charity called Myatt’s Fields Park Project (MFPP) in partnership with the council. While the council looks after park maintenance (including water play, horticultural maintenance, opening and closing and cleaning) MFPP oversee maintenance, employ people that work in the park and provides a point of contact for the public, run extra litter collecting and planting events, raise income for the park, offer space and support for individuals and organisations that want to run activities in the park, offer routes to work through training and enterprise support and run community events and activities with a focus on food and music.

Example: Redcatch Community Garden & Cafe

Redcatch Park, a community garden and growing project, has expanded to include a cafe, circus tent to host pre-school activities, events and play, and a small shop space for park-grown produce. They also host many other activities, from horticultural training and catering skills for out-of-work local residents to supper nights and Pantos. They also manage the park toilets.