Calls for improvements at ‘diabolical’ Cromer playpark
Concerns have been raised that playparks in Cromer are being abandoned by the local authority and allowed to fall into a state of disrepair so cash-strapped council chiefs no longer have to pay for their upkeep.
Cromer mayor Tim Adams is documenting all the faults at the town's five parks - Fearns Field, Brownshill, The Meadow, Happy Valley and Nelson Heights – following complaints over the safety of the children's play equipment.
And he plans to present the catalogue of shame to North Norfolk District Council in an effort to shame them into taking action.
The town councillor stepped in after the local authority threatened to remove an ageing roundabout from Fearns Field. But, although it has been given a stay of execution, damage to the safety surfacing has led to it being fenced off for being dangerous.
Mr Adams said: 'We've got five parks and the worst is Fearns Field. It seems this popular play park is on the route to abandonment with a lack of basic maintenance. Everywhere you look there are serious issues.
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'I was told the district council look after 24 parks across the district and there is not enough budgeted this year to look after play equipment.'
But he added: 'They had an underspend of £876,500 last year and it's not unreasonable to suggest they should get on top of these issues. The current state of the park is diabolical and unacceptable.'
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As well as trip hazards caused by deep holes in the safety surface around the roundabout and basketball area, Cromer Town Council, which has offered to help attract additional funding for the project, heard that some of the rusting play equipment was broken, covered in graffiti, or unsuitable for younger children.
Town councillor Jen Emery said: 'I have travelled all over the country and I have never been to worse parks than the parks in Cromer. They are abysmal. We want to provide for our kids, as well as everyone else, but, at the moment, we are failing.'
Local resident Nigel Barrett was so concerned about the state of the playparks in Cromer that he volunteers his time to help maintain them.
He revealed the grass at Brownshill was once so long children couldn't find, let alone kick, a football in it.
Mr Barrett said: 'I'd like to see some maintenance done, the children's play equipment adequately maintained and some investment for the future to bring it up to the standard that it should be.
'It's all coming to the end of its life now and it needs replacing or else they are going to start removing it. They had already threatened to remove the roundabout but we have put a stop to that. But it is dangerous – that's why it has been fenced off.
'The government champion children getting out of the house.' But he added: 'They will soon have nowhere to go.'
The town council revealed it has been forced to submit a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to the district council to find out how often it maintains the parks, which the local authority is duty-bound to respond to.
But town councillor David Russell said: 'That's disgraceful, you shouldn't need to do that.'
North Norfolk District Council blamed 'wear and tear' for the state of some of the play equipment in Cromer but pointed out it had spent money on improvements.
A spokesperson for the local authority said: 'In 2014 the council allocated a budget of £100,000 for improvements to play provision throughout the district to be targeted at facilities with the greatest need for improvements.
'£46,600 was spent at The Meadow, Cromer on three new pieces of equipment and picnic tables and £10,000 at Fearns Park, Cromer, on one piece of equipment. In both cases the new equipment replaced items that had to be removed because they were unsafe and beyond repair.
'The balance of the remaining budget was spent at Acorn Road, North Walsham and Cromer Road, Sheringham.
'Neighbourhood play areas receive much wear and tear and need regular maintenance and inspection which continues to be carried out on an on-going basis.
'There's also a play and entertainment area planned for the new West Prom development. Initial estimates for play equipment and the new entertainment area are £75,000.'