£4m playground is a disappointment

A PLAYGROUND given a £4million transformation by a council has left parents and toddlers disappointed after minimal changes were made – to encourage kids to ‘use their imagination.’

When mother’s turned up for the grand reopening of their local park with their excited children following the multi- million pound investment they expected big things.

After all, picturesque Beacon Park in Lichfield, Staffs, had been closed for two years so the transformation could take place.

But instead of fun rides and activities they discovered the under fives playground contained only a two-seater swing, an old toy train, recycled springy chickens and jagged rocks. Glass was also found in one of two tiny sandpits.

Lichfield District Council has defended the lack of equipment by claiming that they want to encourage toddlers to `use their imagination’ instead.

Mum Emma Jones, 35 from Burntwood, Staffs, had been to the opening with toddler son Ben.

She said: “The under fives play area is a huge disappointment – in fact, it’s rubbish.

“We’ve waited two years for the park to reopen and after spending GBP4 million expected something more than a tiny swing and the train and chickens from the old park.

“And it beggars belief someone thought it was a good idea to have jagged rocks in an area for such young children. I’ve already heard about one child falling and banging their head.”

She added: “I understand that the council has spent more money on the play area for the older kids and spruced up other parts of the park and those areas do look good.

“But the under fives play area is sure to be the most used part of the park, particularly during school time, yet it is totally neglected.

“Telling toddlers to use their imagination is a joke. Are they supposed to imagine a slide and a roundabout?”

Rose Butler, 30, had taken children Adrian, four, and seven-month old Ella-Louise to the new-look park. The full-time mum, from Lichfield, said: “The kids don’t have enough to do. Most of the equipment has just been taken from the old park and used again.

“It needs more new play equipment, especially for the babies.”

Sara Birch, 32, of Pelsall, West Mids, was also disappointed when she took daughters Belle, four,  and two year-old Thea for a day out.

“I’m shocked at how much has supposedly been spent on it,” said the restaurant owner.

“Belle found a piece of glass in the sandpit and I’ve also noticed dog muck near the play area. There is a new bouncy castle  but you have to pay GBP1.50 per child to have a go.”

Mum Jane Fear, 40, from Burntwood, Staffs, was with her kids Georgina, 11 and four year-old Jacob.

“I can’t see what’s changed, even though a lot of money has been spent,” she said.

“It just looks like the council has simply moved everything around. And the time it has taken to do all this is just ridiculous.”

But Neil Turner, director for Leisure, Parks and Play at Lichfield District Council, defended the under fives area.

He said: “We were keen to create a play area that focused on natural materials, such as wood, stone and sand, to encourage children to use their imagination and take controlled risks.

“However, we have got some finishing touches to make, such as adding a willow spiral maze, picnic tables and benches, as well as more planting.

“The whole play area, including the under fives playground, has been checked and approved, and meets safety standards.

“Our park rangers are on hand to respond immediately to reports of litter or glass, and litter pick the park, including the playground, throughout the day, every day.”

He added: “This Easter holiday Beacon Park has been packed with children and families who have been enjoying the new play area, including the under fives playground.

“On the whole, we have had lots of positive feedback.”

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