A child’s tears at Hitchin playground closure plan

Unhappy local parents and their children in the Brook View playground.

Unhappy local parents and their children in the Brook View playground. - Credit: Archant

Plans to close a Hitchin playground have created uproar – leaving a little girl in tears, and parents and childminders up in arms this week.

Marina Hodnett’s five-year-old daughter, Sarah – who attends Highbury School – burst into tears upon learning the news the park could shut. The youngster with the caring social conscience was so distraught she drew a picture of a child crying tears of sadness – to go alongside her own tears.

Mum-of-two Marin told the Comet: “It’s appalling the council is going to close such a well-used and much-loved park.

“It’s an important play hub. I am disappointed and angry at the news.

“As a psychologist I’m aware of how crucial exercise is for children’s wellbeing. It’s vital for them to have an area where they can meet and play, relax, make new friends and enjoy activities which are healthy.

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“My daughter was sad and cross at hearing the news – as well as tearful. I was impressed by her having such strong views, especially when she drew a picture of a girl crying. She said to me: ‘I hope the people in charge change their minds’.”

A Comet investigation has found the cost to maintain Brook View over the next three years is factored at £2,200 per annum – meaning a total of £6,600 will be saved by closing the playground. The play area had also been earmarked for a future revamp costing £75,000, which will now also be avoided, giving a total saving of £81,100. The council also disclosed the capital cost to remove the existing facilities would be £5,000 – meaning the overall total the district council is set to save by closing Brook View would be £76,100.

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A council spokeswoman said: “It’s proposed we reduce spending on this site and introduce tree trunks and logs which children could use without the expense of formal play equipment.”

Responding, North Herts Labour leader Frank Radcliffe said: “How can the government justify spending £389 million restoring Buckingham Palace – but locally we can’t raise a few thousand pounds to avoid closing playgrounds – not least because they help prevent childhood obesity.”

Brook View is used by childminders too, and the government states outdoor play should be a must for youngsters – with workers required by law to provide it.

Hitchin councillor Judi Billing asked: “Childminders have to show they make provision for outside play – but how can they when playgrounds are being closed?”

Childminder Sarah Partridge, who lives nearby, added: “We can’t lose this much-loved park.”

The plans are part of a wider proposal, set to be discussed at a council meeting next month, to make funding cuts to 47 play areas in North Herts.

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