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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).”
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.
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:
- 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