Letchworth playground demolition leaves children 'devastated'
PUBLISHED: 08:30 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:55 21 February 2019
Parents and children have been left "devastated" after a playground in Letchworth was torn down despite campaigns to save it.
Deconstruction of the park in Linnet Close began ahead of February half term as part of North Herts District Council’s Green Space Strategy, which looked to close “less-used” play areas unless they were taken over by the community at no cost to the authority.
Before being elected as Letchworth Grange councillor, mum Helen Oliver campaigned alongside other parents to save the beloved playground.
She told the Comet: “Everybody is so upset and disappointed. My little boy, who is six, just cannot bear to go there.
“Another parent emailed me and said she just can’t face breaking it to her six-year-old.
“Lots of people are devastated. We think the policy – which might well have been necessary – should have taken a more listening approach and acknowledged that a couple of the parks that were selected were incorrect.
“I’m upset on both levels, as a local mummy and as a councillor. I really tried hard to get the council to hear that it was making a mistake with this playground.
“There were other places where residents were not so bothered. We understand the challenges of the constant cuts, the cabinet is trying to find savings, but it wasn’t a listening response.
“One of the biggest frustrations is that quite a large amount of money is being spent on landscaping where the playground was.”
In March last year councillors decided to grant a three-month reprieve for the Linnet Close playground during which more third-party plans could be submitted, however the area is now in the process of becoming a green space.
NHDC’s executive member for leisure and green issues Councillor David Barnard said: “We fully recognise the importance of outdoor play areas for children in the district.
“In depth research which looked at usage levels at the 47 play areas in our district identified Linnet Close play area as a low usage play area.
“The decision was made to offer this site for community ownership, but unfortunately after several public appeals and NHDC’s offer to assist any group by putting them in touch with specialist playground companies for help and funding guidance, no interested community groups stepped forward.
“Following this, the decision was made to remove the play equipment. The site will be landscaped, new trees and shrubs will be added to enhance the site and low maintenance wooden balance beams, stepping stones and logs will be put in place for children to play on.”
Another parent Dianne Sheppee said: “I’m very sad and disappointed that such an important area has been removed. My children and others have lost this valuable resource. “I am very frustrated that our views haven’t been heard and that the council also made it prohibitively difficult for anyone to do anything to save the area.
“This frustration is further compounded by the much larger sums of money that were spent refurbishing the play area on the Jackmans.
“Play areas are very important in so many ways. They encourage our youngsters to get out and active.
“I now have the upsetting task of telling my six-year-old that she will no longer be able to use the play equipment.”