Do not take our play area away from us

Friends of The Little Park, Victoria Road, Hebden Bridge protest against a new housing development.
Friends of The Little Park, Victoria Road, Hebden Bridge protest against a new housing development.

Furious parents have hit out at plans to fence off part of popular playground for ten months while a new apartment complex is built.

Little Park Friends, Hebden Bridge, says it has become aware that from February 2016, a “significant” part of the Little Park playground at Victoria Road will be inaccessible during weekdays between 8am and 5pm.

It is to allow access for building works for the new Waterside apartment development, overseen by Philip S. Ryley & Co, and will see the toddler swings and pirate ships taken out of action at certain times.

In a statement, the group said: “The pirate ship is the key feature of the playground and the toddler swings are extremely well used during these hours as many parents with pre-school children use the playground at these times.”

“The developer has applied for access under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act. Presently negotiations are underway between the council and developer regarding the health and safety requirements required to ensure child safety within the playground during Phase 2.

“During Phase 2 the developer will be paying £75 a week to the council which will be given back to the playground. Although it is appreciated that the money will go back onto the playground, the community who use it would much rather have a safe and accessible playground for 10 months.”

Calderdale Council says that it will assess the situation when the fencing is in place and if safe, it will allow continued use of the swings. If not, a cradle swing will be added so there will be facilities for all ages.

Nikki Harvey, a member of the group, said: “The Little Park is a much loved and used local asset which the community feels passionately about and has worked hard to have renovated.

“That a private developer is allowed to use a council playground like this is unbelieveable. The developer is building private apartments, not a community resource like affordable housing or a youth centre. This playground serves hundreds of back to back houses with no gardens and they say there are not grounds for refusing access - astounding.”

Danielle Marns added: “It is astounding that Calderdale Council are allowing this. As local councillors have pointed out to them there are reasonable grounds for refusing access. We cannot see how this is justified.”

Councillor Janet Battye (Lib Dem, Calder), said local views are being ignored

She said: “I opposed it because this really is over-intensive development. The residents of Waterside Fold are, quite rightly in my view, concerned about the impact on their street and the developers seem to be trying to work with them. Time will tell once the flats are occupied.

“I spoke out about the potential impact on the Little Park playground which was renovated a few years ago, led by local parents and children. It’s their only outdoor play space in that part of Hebden.”

Andrew Pitts, Calderdale Council’s Head of Neighbourhoods, said: “Our priority is to ensure that construction work next to the play area in Little Park is carried out safely. However, we know how important this great facility is to local families, so we want it to remain accessible.

“We have asked the developer to put fencing around their scaffolding, which means the cradle swings for young children may have to be taken out of use during construction. However, we will assess this when the fencing is in place, and if it is safe we will allow continued use of the swings. If not, we will replace one of the other swings in the playground with a cradle swing so there are still facilities for all age groups. The only other impact will be the temporary removal of a single pole on the climbing frame.”