Sunday, 29 November 2015

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Carlisle community pledges to fight for play park

A community came out to fight to save its under-threat play park.

Stuart Preston photo
Stuart Preston

Young children joined their worried parents, as about 40 people gathered at Belah Community Centre, Carlisle, to discuss the future of the area’s play equipment. And, organisers now believe they may have an idea which could allow the community to keep it in their park.

It is one of 21 around the city which could be stripped of play equipment as part of Carlisle City Council cuts. The authority says it can not afford maintenance costs and could save £25,000 by removing swings slides and other equipment.

The council needs to save £4m in total as a result of a reduction in the amount of money it receives. It has identified certain parks as under-used.

At the meeting last night, many members of the audience objected to the authority’s proposals. Some said the community should have been informed its park was being investigated.

Teresa Preston, said: “If residents had been involved at a consultation level I am almost sure there would have been an outcry right from the very beginning.”

Leo Reynolds, the chairman of Kingstown FC, which makes use of the park, added: “Why have we got to get to a crisis point like this before we get told we can do this and that? If everybody here hadn’t noticed the council’s plans the park would just be gone.

“This is where money should be kept, at grass roots.”

Several city council members attended the event.

Councillor Lee Sherriff, who represents Harraby and is standing as a Labour candidate in next year’s general election, took a selection of photographs of Cara’s Park in Belle Vue. This was upgraded in 2011 following a community fundraising campaign which raised more than £100,000.

She said something similar could be achieved in Belah.

“It is an opportunity for everybody to work together,” she added. “You can make that park better.”

Councillor Gareth Ellis, who represents Belah, pointed out that while the community in Belle Vue raised money for the park, maintenance and inspection is still carried out by the city council.

Councillor Colin Glover, the city council leader, replied: “It’s something we would consider but I can’t give you a cast iron guarantee.”

Mr Glover had previously given assurances that Belah’s play park would be one of the last to be stripped of equipment to allow locals time to explore their options.

He added: “If there is a plan drawn up and it looks like it’s coming together we are not going to pull things up.”

Mike Kingston, a Belah resident, suggested that under a similar arrangement to Cara’s Park, the council could continue to insure Belah’s park with the community making a contribution to costs.

Mr Glover said this could be investigated.

At the end of the meeting several people signed up to a committee which aims to keep the park equipment. Members of this group are set to meet Councillor Elsie Martlew, environment and transport portfolio holder, to discuss the park.

Mr Ellis added: “I see day to day and week to week how much the park is used and to have it earmarked for closure is a shock to say the least.”

He added: “We are here to save the play area in Belah. We are here to save it for the children of Belah.”

One audience member said there was a relatively small number of people at the meeting.

Jo Newton, a Belah resident who is part of the park committee, said: “I have got a big enough mouth to speak for them. I know a lot of people won’t speak out.”


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