Fundraiser launched for legal challenge over demolition and replacement works at Viking Ship playground

Campaign to have the Viking Ship repaired instead of replaced Photo FOCC

Campaigners trying to stop the Viking Ship play equipment in Cliftonville from being demolished have engaged the services of a solicitor in a bid to bring a legal challenge.

The Viking Ship play area in Ethelbert Crescent is currently closed due to ‘health and safety’ concerns. The Viking ship, playhouse climbing frame, rocker seal and sprung rocker ship are being removed and will be replaced with nine new apparatus using £169,517 of a £211,280 allocation from Kent County Council for Community Parks.

Thanet council says the equipment and the ship continue to deteriorate and the timber is decaying from the inside out. Work is expected to start at the end of March and finish in late May.

But Friends of Cliftonville Coastline have now launched a fundraiser with a £2,500 target to pay for their legal challenge.

The group say an itemised quote has been made by the original installer, The Children’s Playground Company, to renovate the playground for £27,000 based on the latest condition report by RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents).

The report, compiled in November 2021 says the condition of the Viking Ship is high risk, raised from medium risk issues identified a year prior.

In December the council approved a decision to allocate the vast majority of the community parks funding to demolishing equipment and replacing it with nine new items, including inclusive accessibility equipment, ordered from manufacturer Kompan.

Cllr George Kup, Cabinet Member for Community Safety & Youth Engagement at Thanet District Council said:  “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.”

But FOCC say repairing the equipment already installed would leave more funding for other play areas, such as Dane and Tivoli sites, and would retain an ‘iconic’ play structure.

In the fundraiser the group say: “We are seeking funds to take legal action against TDC so that:

  • the Viking Ship Playground is not unnecessarily destroyed when it could be renovated (with additional equipment for those with different mobility needs) for a fraction of the cost
  • the community get best value from COVID recovery grant funding, with stipulations to refurbish, not demolish, what already exists
  • improvements can be made to other deteriorating and dangerous playgrounds, such as the Dane Park Playground
  • All playgrounds in Thanet are better maintained to provide safe and imaginative outside play for all children
  • our environment and wildlife habitat is better protected

“We have hired Richard Buxton Solicitors, who are lawyers with expertise in environmental and planning laws. With the funds raised they will be able to properly investigate Thanet District Council’s decision and find out whether the correct procedures have been followed in deciding to demolish the Viking Ship Playground  – a decision which appears to have been made without due consideration of:

  • planning permissions
  • laws to protect wildlife
  • constitutional aims to engage the local community
  • Local Plan commitments
  • grant funding requirements
  • TDC Climate Emergency declaration

“Friends of Cliftonville Coastline was set up in 2018 to protect and improve our beautiful and unique heritage coast for local residents and visitors of today.

“We came together with a mutual desire to renovate the Newgate Gap Sea Shelter for the community, but sadly Thanet District Council part dismantled it (without planning permission) when *cleaning up* the coast for the Turner Prize, then gave it to another group. It continues to deteriorate.

How the ship looked on installation in 2009 Image CPCL

“Our desire to breathe more love into this neglected section of coast led to the creation of the FOCC community flower beds on Ethelbert Crescent in 2019, which are lovingly managed by a small but dedicated group of volunteers. We champion the vanishing wildlife habitat of our protected coast and persistently call for better waste management with the #cleanupcliftonville campaign.

“We are currently focused on saving the Viking Ship Playground as an integral and much loved part of the coastline.”

The group say Kent County Council’s grant funding is for either the refurbishment of an old playground or the creation of a new playground, not for demolition and rebuild.

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. A breakdown of previous years has not been made public.

A previous Thanet council statement said: “Our internal playground inspections report that we are unable to economically maintain the existing equipment to an acceptable standard.”

New equipment includes:

How the new equipment could look at the ‘Viking Ship’ play area
  • 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

Thanet council say 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.

Community parks funding of £4,000 was also allocated for painting of play equipment and fencing at Crispe Park in Birchington. Another £14,700 for safety surfacing at Northdown Park and a provisional allocation of £16,000 for boundary fencing at Memorial Recreation Ground, Broadstairs.

Find the Save Our Viking Ship petition at

Find the fundraiser at