Residents to step up campaign to save parks after public meeting in Whitehead
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The council has said both Ransevyn Park and Windsor Park are “reaching end of life status” and would require “substantial investment to try to bring them up to standard to ensure they are suitable for everybody”. It is anticipated both will become grass areas.
In a statement issued after a public meeting at Whitehead Community Centre, on Thursday evening, organiser Robert McClenagan said: “Our aims are simple, we in no way want these parks taken away. Initially we would like them tidied, maintained and made fit for purpose for children with additional needs. No-one is interested in any more green areas as the children have little enough as it is.
“In Ransevyn only this week, over 20 trees were planted on green areas which now means the children have a small area about 12ft x 12ft to play football. Our long-term aim is to bring the parks to a standard that is befitting, the same as rate-payers would want all over the borough, including Carrickfergus.”
Mr McClenaghan noted a second refurbishment by the council of the playground at Marine Gardens in Carrickfergus which has suffered from vandalism. He added: “We are the custodians of our children’s future and we are their voice. We will not let you rob another generation of the right to play.”
Mr McClenaghan also expressed disappointment just one councillor attended the meeting which had already been rearranged. The residents now plan to contact interim chief executive Valerie Watts in a bid to arrange another meeting with councillors and are seeking information regarding last year’s survey of the parks, structural report and financial investment details.
Mr McClenaghan reported that approximately 50 local people were in attendance at the meeting from Ransevyn/Windsor/Islandmagee Road and Garden Village areas of the town. He indicated that a written petition will be presented at the next meeting.
The playground in Windsor and Ransevyn estates are among 12 under threat of closure by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council due to maintenance costs. A four-week consultation was carried out in December with local users advised of the closure proposal through signage at the playgrounds.
An online petition to save Ransevyn Play Park, started by a local mum-of-two, has been signed by 245 people who described the facility as “not just a recreational space but an accessible haven” for her children.
It says: “It’s crucial that we preserve these inclusive spaces which are vital for the well-being and development of all children but especially those with special needs. We urge you to consider not only my family but also countless others who rely on this facility for their children’s safety and happiness while playing outdoors.”
An independent annual inspection of Mid and East Antrim play parks last March highlighted a number of sites around the borough with “significant issues of concern with regard to health and safety”, a report to councillors stated.
They have been warned failure to act could result in “enforced closure in due course due to health and safety concerns”. Mid and East Antrim Borough Council maintains and manages 67 play parks and has spent £3.3m on refurbishments since 2019.
The council has said previously: “The play parks identified have ongoing issues for a variety of reasons which result in significant investment each year to ensure safety for users.” The council has also indicated the proposal will be reviewed on completion of the consultation to be followed “if successful” by “closure and removal of equipment to ensure site safety”.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter