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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Pupils grill Carlisle MP over disappearing play parks

Young protesters grilled Carlisle’s MP – demanding to know why their play parks are vanishing.

MP question time photo
Ben Wilkinson with John Stevenson MP

John Stevenson had to field some tough questions after visiting Inglewood Infant School in Harraby, Carlisle.

Pupils wanted answers after the city council began stripping rotting play equipment from several local parks.

The mini press conference was sparked by seven-year-old Ben Wilkinson who launched a petition in protest at the move.

He wrote a letter to Mr Stevenson and the council and collected signatures from all 27 of his classmates in support.

Ben’s message read: “Inglewood are trying to stop you tearing parks down – I have made a petition with all of class 8 on it.

“My name is Ben and I would like to keep our parks.”

Karen Clarke, the school’s deputy head, said the class of seven and eight year olds lined up a series of hard-hitting posers for the politician.

She explained: “The children are interested in the fact that some local parks are having to close. We are quite lucky to have so many parks in our area so they were thinking of the other children who aren’t so lucky.

“They asked him [Mr Stevenson] why these parks are having to be closed and what happened to the equipment after it was taken away.

“It came about after Ben had been listening to what was going on in the news and it’s a pertinent issue to the children.

“He picked up on it and wrote the letter off his own back and drummed up support from the other pupils.”

Other teasers fired at Mr Stevenson from the Jeremy Paxmans of the future included: ‘Where do you work’, ‘How big is Westminster’, and ‘Do you have any friends?’.

Fortunately the Tory MP was braced for the barrage. He said: “I’m always tickled by the way primary school children always ask very direct and honest questions – it can catch you out.

“I laughed when I was asked if I had any friends but luckily I have a few so it was okay!

“They’re not old enough to understand the implications but they grasped the effect that taking these play areas away has on them.”

Carlisle City Council originally earmarked 21 play areas for the removal of equipment, saving up to £400,000.

So far 14 parks have been stripped bare while talks are ongoing with parish councils in Arthuret, Brampton and Dalston over how they could be run by local communities.

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