Viking Ship play equipment demolished despite campaign group’s legal bid to halt works

Demolition Photo Frank Leppard

Demolition work at the Viking Ship playground in Cliftonville is underway despite a letter to Thanet council from lawyers saying the works are ‘potentially illegal without planning permission.’

Richard Buxton solicitors, who are experts in environmental and planning law, are working on behalf of the Friends of Cliftonville Coastline group following a successful fundraiser to pay legal fees in a bid to halt the demolition of the play equipment.

Thanet council says planning permission is not needed to bring the structure down as it is being carried out under a General Permitted Development Order but Richard Buxton Solicitors say this is not the case as the ship – due to its bulk and secure attachment at the site –  falls “within the definition of a building” and so requires planning permission.

Photo Frank Leppard

Letters were exchanged between the solicitors and Thanet council earlier this month with TDC saying that based on the cubic metre measurements of the ship a GDPO was correct.

The letter states: “It is clear under the Direction that Section 74 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation
Areas) Act 1990 does not apply to any building with a total cubic content not exceeding 115 cubic metres (as ascertained by external measurement).

“Therefore it is the Council’s position that planning permission and conservation area consent are not required for the works.

“In respect of wildlife and trees on the site, the Council is aware of its obligations and will follow all
necessary and correct procedures.”

The Viking ship, playhouse climbing frame, rocker seal and sprung rocker ship are being removed from the Ethelbert Crescent play area to 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 continued to deteriorate and the timber was decaying from the inside out. Work, which began on-site today (March 29) is expected to finish in late May.

Photo Frank Leppard

Friends of Cliftonville Coastline had mounted the legal challenge saying an itemised quote made by the original installer, The Children’s Playground Company, to renovate the playground  came to £27,000 based on the latest condition report by RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents).

Photo Frank Leppard

The report said the condition of the Viking Ship was 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 equipment ordered from manufacturer Kompan.

Photo Frank Leppard

FOCC said 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.

However, despite the intervention of Richard Buxton Solicitors, Thanet council has moved ahead with the demolition today.

Photo Frank Leppard

A message on the council’s social media account says: “Work to replace the Viking Ship play area on Ethelbert Terrace in Cliftonville begins this week.

“Contractors will be on site from today (Tuesday 29 March), with the updated, more accessible and inclusive playground set to open at the end of May. The work is being funded by the Community Parks grant funding from Kent County Council (KCC).”

Photo Frank Leppard

A letter sent from the solicitor this morning says: “Can the Council confirm that it will not proceed with any demolition works in relation to the Viking Ship? Please can we have your response as soon as possible but in any event before 5pm today? If the Council declines to offer such assurances our clients will be forced to consider options including seeking interim injunctive relief from the High Court.”

However, it is now too late for any ‘injunctive relief’ as the site has been flattened.

Photo Frank Leppard

A Thanet District Council spokesperson said: “The council provided a comprehensive response to Richard Buxton Solicitors on Friday 11 March 2022. Having heard nothing further, we progressed the works, which started on site this morning (Tuesday 29 March 2022).

“The works are in accordance with Cabinet’s decision, taken back in December 2021, to replace the existing play equipment. This followed a health and safety inspection report by RoSPA that highlighted several safety concerns with the viking ship and other equipment.

“The council’s legal team received an email from Richard Buxton Solicitors this morning, after the works had started on site, requesting that we stop work. However, we stand by our position as set out in our earlier letter and are continuing with the work as planned. We look forward to providing a new, safe and inclusive playground for the local community.”

New equipment to be installed 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

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

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


  1. Good. Hope they don’t put a new play area there to teach ‘Friends of Cliftonville Coastline’ a lesson. Sick to death of them moaning and complaining about everything. Typical DFLs who were sold Cliftonville as the next Algarve when in reality it’s more like Afghanistan.

    • We hope they do not put a plastic playground in also, which is what FOCC were trying to stop, as the Viking Ship playground just needed some maintenance. I don’t understand your rhetoric in your statement “to teach FOCC a lesson” it is not them this affects, but the children who enjoyed an adventure playground are now punished. FOCC are not typical DFL’s whatever they are supposed to be in your mind. They all live and work here as far as I have seen. All passionate about the area they live in and trying to make it better, albeit held back by TDC.

    • At least Afghanistan has beautiful scenery with its mountains unlike Thanet where lots of greenery we do have is being lost to new builds no one in the area can afford.

  2. Has TDC been declared an independent state? Or is it subject to British law along with the people that they are supposed to be representing? Blatant disregard of public opinion, and reckless spending of financial resources. Shameful!

  3. Will the money raised for this pointless legal challenge now be paid back by FOCC to those who contributed? Or at least put to some good use within the community?

    • What is that supposed to mean? People of the community willingly funded the solicitors to look into getting the destruction of the playground stopped. What money is there to be paid back?

  4. Who ever thought that TDC would take notice of any objections by the Thanet plebs was on a hiding for nothing I’m afraid. The decision was made many moons ago.

    • Totally agree – and I’ve heard that they’re now looking at closing all the public toilets and selling them off.
      Bunch of amateurs playing at being big time politicians and ‘senior managers’ – all in it for themselves and struggle to make an honest statement.

  5. Two points

    One, it seems the person taking the photos and videos seems to have gain entry to a closed of site.

    Two, I wouldnt have thought it was good practice to use a 5 ton digger with a strap attached to its arm, to pull over a structure. Seems at dodge to me but I guess the RA and safe system of work has been signed off.

    • I am surprized if that is a 5 tonne digger, in those pictures. But I am no expert. At least this dangerous rotting playground is gone.

      • Believe anything they tell you but the facts on site show for themselves now they have cut it all down. The structural timbers (which TDC reported are rotting from the inside out) are without any rot whatsoever. The only rot is in some non-structural pieces that could be replaced easily. There was no reason to waste all this funding on that playground. Money that could have been put to better use elsewhere in Thanet.

  6. Look on the bright side. At least an officer or two at TDC will get their summer holiday paid for now.

  7. TDC will never change it’s not there own money and they don’t care. TDC needs to go completely all those at the top, then the councilors and start again with real people who care

  8. So Kent Resident, are you telling us that two letters sent by your solicitor to TDC has consumed the whole £3k donated to FOCC? These fundraisers seem to be a nice little earner for some!

    • Not my solicitor, but legal representation in litigation cost a heck of a lot these days. Nice earner for some, true.

  9. I’m all for lovely parks for kids but the council aren’t really taking all the kids into account. Look at Ellington park for example beautiful new playground yet not really suitable for pre schoolers. The old play area got destroyed despite parents of the little ones pleading for it to be left for the little ones.

  10. Sad day. But hey, my kids will enjoy playing in the new one just as much. I didn’t want to see the old one go, and it deserved to be renovated. I hate waste and this is a great example of throwaway culture. TDC have got their blinkers on financially, environmentally and socially. They might as well stick their fingers in their ears and flick us all the v’s. Time to move on though now that it’s done.

  11. I notice Dreamland is selling their Pirate boat climbing frame. Maybe FOCC could buy it and install it somewhere. Then pay for its constant repairs and cleaning. If they have a few grand spare

  12. There is no evidence of any rot affecting the alleged “structural risk” of the Robinia wood used. The wood sawn through, shows it would have served its intended purpose without any surface treatment for probably another 20 years, certainly longer than the plastic and steel that will be replacing it. The original specifiers and designers of this playground knew what they were doing in creating an iconic playground fit for 30+ years. This is needless waste and destruction, reflecting the environmental ignorance and negligence of every TDC officer and councillor that made this happen. Shame on you all!

  13. The stainless steel slide is worth £8,000 alone and I note it was the first thing removed from the site yesterday. No doubt further profit for someone and cost for us!?

    • If the slide is worth £8000. What do you think they should do with it? Before leaving the site. Leave it there for a passing open back van driver to take?

      • Maybe leave it like they have done with the swings so it can be used with the new plastic stuff being put in. It’s been there long enough without anyone thinking of stealing it!

  14. What is wrong with you people? The area was in decay. Its being replaced for the benifit of our children. Stop moaning.

  15. My daughter took my granddaughter’s here when it first opened a few years ago. Soon stopped because of feral kids with no respect. I expect the same will happen again.

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