A double protest will be held this weekend demanding renovation of the Viking Ship playground in Cliftonville rather than demolition and replacement with new equipment and voicing the need for investment at Dane Park playground.
The Friends of Cliftonville Coastline group has arranged the demo in a bid to persuade Thanet council to rethink proposals for the way a £211,280 allocation from Kent County Council for Community Parks is spent.
Currently funding of £169,517 will be used for demolition of the existing Viking Ship site and then installation of replacement play equipment.
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 Viking Ship play area was shut off to the public on Wednesday (February 9) with Thanet council saying this was due to the ship, some of the other play equipment and the play area’s surfacing not being compliant with current health and safety standards.
A report to councillors in December said that of the 2020/21 playground revenue budget of £39,000 a year -split between the isle’s 31 playgrounds – some £12,647 was spent on essential maintenance and £1,900 on inspections for the Viking Ship play park. This prompted the decision to replace the equipment.
But, campaigners say RoSPA reports that all defects at the site could be repaired.
The original Viking Ship equipment from The Children’s Playground Company was installed in 2009 with the major structural components being of sturdy Robinia wood. It was funded with £300,000 from the Stronger, Safer Communities Fund according to council agenda minutes from the year of installation. Playground company CEO Rinske Wassenaar said only minor repairs would be required, such as replacing missing parts, addressing possible splits, sanding off sap wood and repainting, for a cost ranging between £8,000-£12,000.
Thanet council says: “Our internal playground inspections report that we are unable to economically maintain the existing equipment to an acceptable standard. The council has a duty to ensure the health and safety of playground users which is why we have taken the decision to close the Viking ship playground, with immediate effect.”
Campaigners say if repairs are made then more of the playground grant could be used on other areas, including Dane Park and play areas at Tivoli and Laleham.
To highlight their concerns a demo will be held on Sunday (February 13) from 10am at the Viking Ship playground and 11am at Dane Park playground.
The group say: “We will come together and protest so that all of our children benefit from clean, well kept, inspiring playgrounds, across Thanet. We want more than empty promises and we want better use of funding, for maintenance and renovation, Enough is Enough! If we collectively make a noise, TDC will have to listen.
“It would cost approx £12K to renovate the Viking Ship playground to good as new, and an average of £2K per annum to maintain it to a high standard including replacing parts such as rope, nets, infill of sand and replacement of worn grass matting.
“Clearly this has not been done since it was built in 2009. There is no need to throw an obscene amount of money at one playground.
“The £169,517 allocated to the Viking Ship Playground could and should be used to improve both Dane Park playground and the Viking Ship playground. To use it on an unneeded demolition and rebuild is an appalling waste of funds.
“With half term around the corner, families are directed to walk to the already over-crowded and dangerous Dane Park playground instead. Dane Park playground is already over-crowded and dangerous, with many play structures disintegrating and unsafe.
“Thanet council expects all of Cliftonville’s children to use the overcrowded Dane Park playground for the next four months. Why has funding not been allocated to the improvement of Dane Park, and other playgrounds too?
“What our playgrounds really need is ongoing upkeep and maintenance that ensures they are always clean and safe. This is what they all lack, across Thanet. If you have a playground you care about anywhere in Thanet please do join us.
“We will be making a short film that features the opinions of our children, because no one has consulted or heard from them. Please help us by filming some footage of your children saying why they love their playground and what worries or makes them sad, then please do tag it #saveourvikingship and post it on social media and send a copy of it via direct message to our Facebook page so we can collate the footage.”
Cllr George Kup, Cabinet Member for Community Safety & Youth Engagement at Thanet District Council said: “Playgrounds have a hugely positive impact on children’s physical and mental health and I am delighted that we have been granted Community Parks funding from Kent County Council to provide a high-quality play area, with more inclusive and accessible equipment.
“Without this funding, the play area would remain closed as the council does not currently have the budget to replace it. This would be devastating for the local community. We expect the playground, complete with new equipment and safer surfacing, to re-open at the end of May.”