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£1m play park an unusable quagmire

Council defends lack of winter-friendly design

Marcel Roth and two-year-old Hannah Chung-Roth braved the swampy conditions at Toddlers Cove play area
Marcel Roth and two-year-old Hannah Chung-Roth braved the swampy conditions at Toddlers Cove play area

A play park opened as part of a £1 million makeover of Canterbury’s Westgate Gardens has been branded unfit for use during the whiter. The Toddlers Cove play area was unveiled last summer amid much fanfare after the city council secured a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. But this week it was a boggy swamp, with churned-up mud and huge puddles, making it near impossible to use the play equipment. Kat Barnett, from Blean, is among those who claim more should have been done to protect it from the elements. She says the muddy conditions ruined a day out for her and her four-year-old son, who has autism.

“Half of the park is like a swamp,” she said. “Canterbury City Council spent a lot of money on it, so why didn’t they think of winter play? We first went on the baby swing, which was absolutely filthy inside the swings and a wet slippery muddy mess underneath. The whole ground around the play area was just as muddr and full of puddles, except a mound around the ‘ship’ in which suitable material had been laid. Several parents and disappointed kids came and went without even attempting to have a play. One mum I spoke to said they come regularly, and that day was better than it has been for a while. They come to just use the baby swing, and she put a blanket on the swing and put her daughter in and just got on with it. It’s a real shame.”

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Marcel Roth, 38, regularly takes his two-year-old daughter, Hannah Chung-Roth, to the park. The software engineer, of Cherry Drive, Canterbury, said:

“We use the park a lot when we take a walk along the river here. However, there are quite a few months when the paths and river are so flooded that you can’t take that walk. This is probably the worst it has ever been. If it was raining I would think twice about coming here, whether it has got drainage or not. Maybe it could be improved but I don’t know how you could deal with this.”

City council spokesman Rob Davies said using winter-friendly tarmac or rubber matting in the park would have “looked out of place”. He added:

“Toddlers Cove play area is situated in a flood plain and is next to a river. As a consequence of its location and typical winter weather, there will be a period of time each year when ground conditions are not very good. The aim was to create a natural play area in a semi-natural setting. In addition, the terms of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant required us to spend the money on play equipment rather than expensive surfacing. Creating a play area in this location was not straightforward, but we would much rather have something wonderful and in full use for most of the year, and accept that in the depths of winter conditions will not be ideal, than not have it at all.”

Herne Bay Gazette, February 5th 2015

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