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Thursday, 21 August 2014

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Parents urged to help develop Carlisle play park

Parents of children in wheelchairs are being urged to get involved with plans to develop a new play park in Carlisle.

Campaigners managed to secure the future of the Belah play park after Carlisle City Council voted to remove rotting equipment but were not going to replace it.

A deal was agreed whereby residents would raise funds to buy the new equipment but the council will insure and maintain it.

Last week the News & Star revealed how the council had agreed to examine its disabled play provision after complaints by Carlisle mum Nicola Clulow.

Since then, Melissa Andrews, a mum-of-four from Etterby, has spoken out to echo Nicola’s concerns – but insists there is hope.

Her youngest son Harley, 11, is severely disabled and she too has struggled to find anywhere to take him.

“We want to take the others to the park but we can’t when Harley is around because all he can do is sit there,” Melissa explained. “In this day and age it seems just incredible that children in wheelchairs are not catered for.”

When Melissa heard about the plans for Belah, she volunteered to get involved with the committee and is now working with other residents and councillors to come up the new equipment.

“I want to take my kids to a brilliant park but one which is accessible to Harley as well,” she said.

The wheelchair-friendly equipment includes a roundabout and a special swing, which wheelchairs clip into, as well as potentially installing some sensory boards at a low height.

Belah Park campaigners have organised a Picnic in the Park event to take place on Sunday, June 1 between 10am and 4pm.

Families are invited along where they will be able to look at the four potential play providers, and vote for the equipment they would like to see.

Melissa is hoping to encourage parents of other disabled children to come along.

The campaign has been praised by deputy council leader Elsie Martlew, who said: “I really commend the parents of Belah in what they are doing, not just as far as the disabled children and their provision but the whole play area itself.

“I really think this idea of a wheelchair-friendly play park is excellent.”

She explained that there are disabled-friendly items of play equipment such as bucket swings, but admitted these are of no use to an older child whose parent may struggle to lift them.

“I wasn’t actually aware there was equipment for wheelchair disabilities,” Mrs Martlew added. “We are now looking at equipment to put in Bitts Park and Hammonds Pond.”

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