‘Save our Hitchin park’ – Jack’s heartfelt plea as more than 200 turn out in show of support

Local parents and children protest against the potential closure of playground at Rosehill Park.

Local parents and children protest against the potential closure of playground at Rosehill Park. - Credit: Archant

A boy with a disability has made a heartfelt appeal to save his local Hitchin park from possible closure – as more than 200 concerned residents turned out in a show of support.

Jack Gower has spastic paraplegic cerebral palsy, a condition which makes his limbs extremely stiff, and uses crutches to get to his favourite park, Rosehill.

The 11-year-old and mum Ella were among the many who gathered at the park on Friday in response to North Herts District Council’s Green Space Strategy, which could see 14 parks across the district close if they are not taken on and run by the community.

Rosehill has special significance to the Gower family as it has aided Jack in his rehabilitation since a life-changing operation aiming to help him to walk independently in the future.

Jack, who is a pupil at Highover School and lives in Stotfold Road, said: “If the politicians paid themselves less we could save this park. We need more people doing things and less people trying to run things.

“I get to go here every day after school and meet my friends – there’s nothing I can’t do as a disabled child. This park is really fun and I get to mess around with my friends. But when I go to other parks which are a good distance away I get really tired as I have to walk there and I can’t do as much as I’d like to do.”

Mum Ella said: ”It’s an ideal distance from our house so he gets a lot of benefit from the park. Playing with his friends in the park is a form of therapy for him. He even uses the stairs on the little slide as therapy in helping him walk.

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“Other parks such as Walsworth are inappropriate. Jack would be devastated if it were to close as it means so much to him.

“It might not mean a lot to councillors but it means the world to me and my son. It’s a haven where mums can catch up knowing our children and safe and having fun. There’s a real community spirit.”

The council says it can no longer afford to fund the parks, but has been criticised after Conservative councillors voted themselves a pay rise in January. Ella added: “It’s a lovely space. People will remember the councillors’ decision to close it when the next local elections come around.

“It’s very self-concerned to vote yourself such a huge pay rise while closing children’s playgrounds. Playgrounds that help little boys to walk again.”

Councillor Judi Billing said: “The protest at Rosehill proved what real community action.

“The place was packed, not just with children and parents but also angry grandparents and childminders who really need these marvellous small local play parks to keep their children active, happy and safe. We also met a young boy called Jack Gower who was one of the bravest children I have ever met.

“He has disabilities which he is slowly overcoming and desperately needs his local park for play and exercise.

“Rosehill and all the other small parks are really lovely places - they cost next to nothing to maintain in the scale of things.

“The pathetic £30k saving the district council wants to make could have been achieved at a stroke by councillors not awarding themselves a £30k pay rise.

“I don’t really know how north herts Tories can face themselves in the mirror in the mornings. None of them came to meet the people protesting

at Rosehill Park which I thought was an absolute disgrace.”

Councillor Jane Gray, said: “We hope community groups come forward to play a vital role in championing and supporting parks.

“We’ll give them as much support as possible.”