The play area at Ethelbert Crescent in Cliftonville is to get an overhaul with new play equipment which will feature inclusive apparatus such as a wheelchair carousel.
The Viking Ship play area was installed in 2009 with the major structural components being of Robinia wood rather than the galvanised/powder coated steel used for most apparatus.
However, the condition of play equipment has been deteriorating and become a Health and Safety risk. An inspection in December 2020 reported 83 defects at the Viking Ship playground with concerns raised over the timber structural elements of the Viking ship itself.
A report from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), following inspections and surveys, highlighted concerns about the condition of the Rocker Seal, the Playhouse, the Sprung Rocker Ship and the Viking Ship.
Thanet council has been forking out a ‘disproportionate’ amount from the annual playground budget on the Viking Ship area in an attempt to keep it safe.
The total annual playground revenue budget of £39,000 a year is split between the isle’s 31 playgrounds. In 2020/21, £12,647 was spent on essential maintenance and £1,900 on inspections at the Ethelbert Crescent play area.
Last month Thanet council was notified of a £211,280 allocation from Kent County Council for Community Parks as part of Contain Outbreak Management funding (COMF) to be invested within the district.
The funding must be spent by 31 March 2022 and must be used for children’s play equipment and/or community chairs and tables.
At a Cabinet meeting this month councillors approved a plan that would mean the bulk of the funding is used at the Viking Ship play area.
Funding of £169,517 will be used for demolition of the existing site and then installation of replacement play equipment.
The proposed new equipment is aimed at inclusive play and features:
- Castles Keep – large 3 storey castle with multiple slides, poles and net
- Castle Gatehouse – castle with slide and rope bridge
- Track Ride Tower – zip wire type apparatus with tower and net
- Wheelchair Carousel – inclusive roundabout carousel
- Swings with cradle swing set and inclusive “you and me” swing
- Jumper Square – floor trampoline type jumper
- Horse Seesaw
- Spinner Bowl
- Agility Trail
Work is due to take place in February and March 2022 and will include the demolition/removal of the existing Viking ship, playhouse climbing frame, rocker seal and sprung rocker ship.
The aim is to take the large natural timber sections to Dane Park depot for storage with the intention of recycling for uses such as raised bedding borders.
Funding of £4,000 has been allocated for painting of play equipment and fencing at Crispe Park in Birchington. Another £14,700 will be used for safety surfacing at Northdown Park and there is a provisional allocation of £16,000 for boundary fencing at Memorial Recreation Ground, Broadstairs.
The Memorial Park play area was upgraded in 2014 but has suffered two major instances of vandalism. In the second incident the boundary fence was set alight and destroyed.
The report to Cabinet members says: “The play area is now open to the remainder of the recreation area reducing the safety and security for children using the play equipment. Instances of dog fouling and dogs running through the play area have occurred since the damaged fence has been removed. “It is therefore proposed to install a new powder coated bow topped galvanised steel fence to encourage the safe use of this park. This material selection will also make it much harder to repeat the wide scale damage caused by the previous vandalism and arson attack.”
At the meeting Green councillor Mike Garner suggested Section 106 money – contributions from developers for isle infrastructure – should be investigated with any outstanding amounts added to the fund for the Cliftonville park which, in turn, would release funding to replace the Memorial Rec play area fencing.
He added: ““I’m pleased to see this community grants funding of £211k made available for works to play areas in Thanet although I have to say I’m disappointed that the Government gives us, and other recipients, such a short timescale to spend it or, it seems, lose it. This inevitably means that any time for public consultation is reduced even more than usual.
“The play areas identified, especially the Viking Ship playground in Cliftonville, are certainly in need of urgent attention and I agree they should be the priority.
“Residents in Broadstairs recently benefited from the renewal of the 4 playgrounds across the town which brought a new lease of life to the parks they are situated in. I know this is especially true in my ward on the estate around the Vincent Close park. “These upgrades were funded by section 106 money which had been made available as a result of new housing developments in the town.
“I believe section 106 money has been available for play areas in Cliftonville from similar developments there in the last couple of years.
“If there is any of this money available then I would hope it could be used in conjunction with the £211k. This would then mean that the provisional item of replacing the fence around the Memorial Rec playground can be funded along with other playground projects in other parts of Thanet.”
Cllr Garner has been told council officers will investigate the 106 funding.
Thanet’s Cabinet member for youth engagement, Cllr George Kup, said: “I am very pleased that we have been able to secure the funding that is needed from KCC to keep the Viking Ship play area open, for so many residents and visitors to enjoy.
“It is also encouraging that we have been able to allocate some of the money to other smaller projects to ensure some of the district’s other parks, like Crispe Park in Birchington, are kept in a usable condition for everyone to enjoy.”