New soft play area opens in Portsmouth at transformed Southsea church

CHILDREN can now play in a brand new soft play area in Southsea as families enjoy a recently opened community cafe.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 12:19 pm

St Margaret’s Community Church declared its new play area open at an official ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday.

Cllr Suzy Horton, deputy leader of the city council and cabinet member for children, families and education, along with former councillor Steve Pitt cut the ribbon in front of a specially-invited group of parents and children.

The opening on June 25 came just a couple of weeks after the Highland Road church’s new coffee shop opened to the public.

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Inside the soft play area at St Margaret’s Church.
Picture: Courtesy of Church of England Diocese of Portsmouth
Inside the soft play area at St Margaret’s Church. Picture: Courtesy of Church of England Diocese of Portsmouth

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Amie Jenrick’s children Rudi, five, and Milo, 18 months, were among the first to sample the soft play area.

Amie said: ‘My youngest has never actually seen a soft play area before, because of the pandemic, so he was very excited.

‘It’s a nice place to come, because you can sit in the cafe and see the whole thing, so you can keep an eye on your children.

The café and soft play area inside St Margaret’s Church, Highland Road, Southsea. Picture: Courtesy of Church of England Diocese of Portsmouth

‘They’ve done an amazing job. It’s just the right distance for us to get here, and we’ll definitely be popping in after school.’

The official opening of the soft play area marked the end of a major development that has included re-roofing the church, refurbishing the inside, and installing heating and a new floor.

Maisie Daniels, whose children are aged three and one, said: ‘I think it’s brilliant. It’s a great place to go after school and it helps their social interactions, especially after the lockdowns we’ve had.’

The soft play area was partly funded by £15,000 from Portsmouth City Council’s community infrastructure levy.

Cafe, shop and foodbank manager Amy Grindlay serves a customer. Picture: Courtesy of Church of England Diocese of Portsmouth

Cllr Hugh Mason, cabinet member for planning, policy and city development, said: ‘We're so pleased that we were able to fund this much-needed community asset.

‘It will allow local children to experience the benefits of playing together after what has been a very difficult time for families in our city.

‘Each ward area of Portsmouth is entitled to apply for community infrastructure levy funding to be spent to make changes that will benefit the whole community, and this is a great example of the process working to help children and parents in the city.’

The church’s foodbank is open two mornings a week.

Amy Grindlay, cafe, shop and foodbank manager, said: ‘For me, this is what church is all about – not just the worship on Sundays, although that’s exciting too!

‘But church should be a place where there is a real community, looking to help each other and those who are most vulnerable, and providing somewhere that is safe and secure.

‘It is now part of our DNA here to look out for people.

‘We’ve been really privileged throughout the lockdowns and afterwards that people trust us enough to come into the building, tell us their stories, and allow us to help them.’

The cafe and community shop are open from 10am-2pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and the soft play area (including cafe) is open from 2.30pm-4.30pm on Thursdays and Fridays.

Each soft play session costs £3 per child.

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