The Secret Jungle play area at Northdown Park has been returned to Thanet council control

The Secret Jungle play area is now overgrown Photo Friends of Northdown Park

The Secret Jungle play area in Northdown Park has been taken back under the control of Thanet council.

The all-inclusive play area designed to allow disabled and able-bodied children to play alongside each other has been shut since Summer 2018 since Your Leisure announced it would no longer be responsible for the site and Manor House Nursery would be the operator from September 2018.

The Secret Jungle was an inclusive play and activity area

Several other groups also made enquiries, including the team behind the Thanet Forest School and Tamara Rattigan of The Little Art Cart community interest company, who questioned why there was not a public tender process.

The Secret Jungle was closed in July 2018 following a spate of vandalism at the park and still remains closed.

The prolonged closure has prompted questions over public access from former interested parties and parents who previously had fob entry for their children had to play in the area.

Photo Friends of Northdown Park

However, Thanet council says it has been handed back to the authority and work to clear and make repairs will now begin.

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Due to ongoing vandalism issues, the operators of the Secret Garden in Northdown Park have now handed responsibility of the site back to the council.

“The council will be starting a period of clearing and repair work at the site in due course. Future options for the site will then be explored to ensure it remains a community space.”

Photo Friends of Northdown Park

The Secret Jungle play area had been funded by The Children’s Society and then the Big Lottery but cash ran out, spelling the end of special family events.

The Big Lottery grant of £350,000 was made in 2010 and ran until the end of 2016. The funds not only paid for maintenance but also activities for children of all abilities, such as an after-school nature club, and events for the community.

Your Leisure, which suffered a £350,000 cut in funding from Thanet council in 2019, had notified families who used the area, accessed with a special fob key, of the decision to cease as operators.

Manor Nursery boss Sean Sheerin had previously pledged to keep the site open for the public, saying:  “As far as the public is concerned they won’t see any real differences, they will still be able to come and go but on a more controlled basis. It is a community asset.”

However, he said repeated vandalism had forced the closure of the site.