Public protest as campaigners bid to halt demolition and replacement of Viking Ship play equipment in Cliftonville

The Viking Ship play site when it was installed in 2009. It has since deteriorated significantly Image CPCL

A public protest is due to take place tomorrow (December 20) in a bid to save the Viking Ship equipment at the Ethelbert Crescent play area (Newgate Gap) in Cliftonville.

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. It was funded with £300,000 from the Stronger, Safer Communities Fund according to council agenda minutes from the year of installation.

However, a report to Thanet council Cabinet members said 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.

In response Thanet council plan to use £169,517 of a £211,280 allocation from Kent County Council for Community Parks for demolition at the existing site and then installation of replacement play equipment.

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.

They will be replaced with:

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

The funding must be spent by 31 March 2022.

Image CPCL

But members of the Friends of Cliftonville Coastline group say the ‘iconic and unique’ Viking Ship must be saved. They will gather at the playground tomorrow at 10am and are inviting others to join them, who:

“Have children who will be heartbroken by the loss of our unique iconic Viking Ship, so integral to imaginative natural play.

“Believe this money should be spent on renovation and improvements (eg improved access and a wheelchair carousel) rather than a demolition and expensive rebuild.

“And that the saved money could then be spent across Margate and beyond to benefit multiple deteriorating playgrounds in need, eg Dane Park.

“Think the council must be held to account for the lack of future planning and ongoing maintenance of ailing community infrastructure.

“Is fed up with the lack of scrutiny over whether Section 106 funds from developers are properly collected, and why they are not being used to maintain local playgrounds, as allocated.

“Believes we should safeguard our conservation areas, and adhere to planning permissions where required to protect them.

“Thinks we should scrutinise large and sudden expenditures such as this, where the legal tendering process for contractors and planning permission is ‘skipped.’

“And that there should be far more consultation within the community to find out what is wanted and needed locally.”

Image CPCL

A Friends of Cliftonville Coastline spokesperson said: “The ROSPA consultant’s report recommends that the Viking Ship should have 5 supporting posts replaced, the sand pit frame should have 2 replacement posts and that these should be inspected every 2 years.

“The cost of replacing the supporting posts is estimated to be £8-10K. Due to the high level of the ship mast inspection costs are estimated to be £3K every two years.

“So why is demolition the only option being considered, instead of the obviously much cheaper and more environmentally sustainable option of renovation and maintenance?

“Section 106 payments are meant to be used to maintain playgrounds near to new developments of a certain size. There is no trace of whether allocated money was ever gathered or spent on the Viking Ship Playground.”

At a Cabinet meeting on December 16, when the park funding was approved, 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 fencing at Memorial Rec play area. An amount for this work has been provisionally allocated from the parks grant and officers have said they will investigate the section 106 funding.

Allocations have also been made for work at Crispe Park in Birchington and Northdown Park.

Photo Friends of Cliftonville Coastline

On The Isle of Thanet News article revealing park funding plan, a post from CEO at The Children’s Playground, Rinske Wassenaar said: “Being the supplier of this bespoke playground and with over 20 years of experience working with Robinia playground equipment, this playground is in no need of replacement.

“Looking thoroughly at the photos (in the article), I am convinced only minor repairs would be required, e.g. replacing of missing parts, addressing possible splits, sanding off sap wood and repaint. We have overhauled similar sized playgrounds for a cost ranging between £8-12k, where we completely sanded off the sapwood. The playground will look like new and would last at least for another 10 years.”

The total annual playground revenue budget of £39,000 a year is split between the isle’s 31 playgrounds. In 2020/21, Thanet council says £12,647 of this was spent on essential maintenance and £1,900 on inspections at the Ethelbert Crescent play area alone.

Cllr George Kup, Cabinet Member for Community Safety & Youth Engagement said: “I’m delighted that the Council has been awarded £221k of Community Parks grant funding as part of the Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF).

“£170k of this funding will be used to replace and improve the play area equipment at Ethelbert Crescent. The cost of maintaining and repairing the existing apparatus at Ethelbert Crescent has become unsustainable, with a disproportionate amount of the maintenance budget for all play equipment across the district being spent here. Without this improvement work the play area would be closed due to its deteriorated condition.

“The Community Parks funding will also fund improvements at other parks in the district to encourage the use of outdoor spaces in line with the objectives of the grant funding. The funding must be spent by the end of March 2022 and officers have had to work quickly to develop a scheme based on prioritised need and community benefit. Due to these tight timescales, it is regrettable that we have not been able to consult with the local community.

“It is disappointing that a small minority of people are protesting against a decision that is providing a lifeline for the popular Viking Ship playground. The funding means that a high quality play area, with more inclusive and accessible equipment than currently, will now be available in the long term for the benefit of the local community.”

Huge overhaul of Viking Ship play area in Cliftonville approved as part of £211k parks funding for Thanet


    • Yet another “campaign” it will have its own Facebook page soon. Most people would be glad some money was being spent.

  1. What’s that? Friends of Cliftonville Coastline aren’t happy about something and are going to protest? What a surprise!! You just can’t help this group!!! They are so negative it is beyond belief.

  2. The ship and area has character and our kids really enjoyed it. The replacement plastic stuff looks very bland by comparison. I can see why people don’t really want it just chucked away.

  3. Health and safety comes first and foremost If anyone of the children gets hurt if in its state that hit has to come down is Innevatible hopefully nobody will sue the council if their children get hurt.i thought there is not supposed to be large gatherings such as protests.

  4. Cllr George Kup, you have entirely missed the point. The playground does not need a lifeline, it simply needs care that TDC have persistently failed to provide. The first playground of this type, built in 2002 (7 years before ours) is in Dorset and still heavily in use. Repairs and part replacements are easily carried out by the supplier whose experienced carpenters repaired minor splits free of charge in 2014. The durability and repairability of natural materials like Robinia wood, mean none of the unique features of this playground, itself a landmark of Cliftonville, are anywhere near their “use by” date. This is a conservation area and your haste to destroy the memory and pleasure of many who’ve enjoyed an experience they could not get elsewhere, is a serious threat.
    Do you have planning permission for the petrochemical and metal clone that you dictate we shall have?
    What are your plans for monitoring and preventing the daily vandalism that our Viking playground has faithfully withstood for 11 years, without any defence by TDC?
    Please think again. There is a much better way.

    • Surely something cheap and simple such as injecting a suitable resin into the gaps and splits in the wood will prevent any trapped fingers or splinters and at the same time significantly prevent any further deterioration.

      This could be achieved quickly and easily for a few hundred pounds rather than £169,000 !

  5. It seems very easy to me. Give Rinske Wassenaar £12000 to repair and maintain the Playground. As he says it will good for another 10 years, I am sure he will give a 10 year guarantee, for that price. Does this £12000 include the tonnes of playground grade bark that is added every year? That blows away. Or for the constant fire damage?

  6. TDC spending money without a transparent tendering process on something that needs nothing more than TLC snd some catching up with what should have been routine maintenance.

    Their incompetence (or unashamed venality?) and wastefulness of public money is boundless.

  7. The wood is very long lasting and in good nick. The weathered look is natural and of no issue other than some splits that just need repairing. A lack of maintenance as usual by TDC. If they were looked after their would be money for other playgrounds. £250,000 for this playground just 12 years ago is not a good outlay when they are saying it needs replacing already. All it needs is a few repairs and varnishing. Spend some of the funding on a better surface under foot and bins and there is more for other playgrounds. This throw away society is not very environmentally or financially sound. Our younger councillors need to realise this.
    The Viking Ship should be saved. It is the main feature of the playground and what it was named after. The kids love it too.

  8. Isn’t this typical of TDC and the way councillors manage matters here. Some Sensible people have made so many valid points above there is little more to be said, apart from again a lack of transparency and a question over the awarding of contracts and the lack of due diligence and indeed council probity rears its head,or is it just blind incompetence and ignorance of environmental issues.

  9. I assume that Barry is the Labour county councillor on KCC only entitled to your opinion year you won’t do anything about parking on the pavements in the lower high street blocked by cars as disabled people with eye sight problems and mother’s with buggies and children have to walk on the road as that area is a rat trap for delivery drivers to KFC every day and evenings.

    • Not the “barry” above brian. By the way i paid for bollards out of my members grant to put new bollards in the lower high street to prevent cars parking on the pavements.the long term solution is to pedestrian the street along side new street

  10. Usual state mandated waste. Money handed out but needs to be spent asap. Council rushes to spend said money and as its done in a hurry, best value is not important. Look at the wasted cash , with the traffic calming measures in westgate and broadstairs implemented by KCC, drawn up by a 3 year old with a duplo set, results were a too often dangerous set of changes that were soon scrapped.
    But councillors don’t care as
    1) its free money
    2) spending it ( no matter how wastefully ) in their ward is always seen as a win.

  11. Most of the characters calling for the Viking Ship to be saved are the same Facebook regulars who for ages have been demanding the play area is dangerous and needs an urgent upgrade. What would they do if they had nothing to complain about?

  12. Fully behind this. Clearly some repairs needed and not the whole lot ripped out for inferior and more expensive tat.

    How old is this fella? He looks about 15?!?!? Is he the work experience lad?!?

    Anyway I hope common sense win we should be preserving things like that Viking ship.

  13. If its unsafe remove it. But dont put another one back out of the money this useless council steal off anyone who wants to build in thanet. If the residents want a new playground let them raise the funds

  14. My 8 yr old grandson has been going to that park all his life . He loves the park , he loves the pirate ship . Its perfectly safe , and one of the best places for a kid to go and enjoy himself . To replace it all with more boring standard equipment would be a mistake . Hopefully it will be saved .

  15. Seems Cliftonville is becoming like the French and have to complain and march about everything. Clearly too many people with nothing better to do!

    • So …. we just let them do whatever they like ?, knock down a brilliant – and unique – piece of play equipment , just sit back .., be like the french , give up ?

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