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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

image for Isle of Wight News - Children of Wootton get a wall
Wootton's new wall

Two years after taking away the play equipment in the rec just off Gamble Lane in Wootton, the council have finally relented to people-pressure to return facilities to the park.

What they have provided is a wall.

"It's a nice wall," said local resident, Jessica Montgomery, 12. "But it's not a swing or a roundabout or a seesaw. It's not even a tyre on a rope."

The old play equipment was taken away when it was determined that it was too dangerous for children to play on.

"We had to remove the old swings, roundabout and slide," said Wootton Residents Association Chairperson, Lesley Bean, 44. "They were rotting and rotten. Completely unsafe for children to play on."

Initially, funding was secured for a new play area with climbing frames, slides, a variety of swings, balancing beams and a small skate park. However, after the local election funding for the park was diverted into a fact finding mission to Tahiti for local councillors. Two years later, and the builders came in, exciting a whole host of children who were eagerly awaiting the proposed play area.

Instead they got an eight foot long, five feet high brick wall. Looking all alone in the middle of the old play area.

"Children find plenty of uses for a wall," said Les Bean. "They can paint it, climb it, kick a ball against it, lean against it smoking fags. We did a big study into what local children do, and it was determined that this was the perfect solution."

More importantly, the wall only cost three hundred and sixty pounds, whereas play equipment would have cost hundreds of thousands.

"Kids were only doing that stuff cos there wasn't a play area," said Jess Montgomery. "There's already plenty of walls around to carry on doing that. We didn't really need another one. Even if it was designed for that."

With the forty pounds left in the budget, the local council have put a sign on the wall that reads "No Ball Games" and taped it off so that children don't accidentally climb it and fall off. Additionally, a further sign has been added about the CCTV that would have been installed, had there been any more money in the budget to make sure children don't vandalise the wall.

"It's a health and safety measure," said Bean. "This way if the kids ignore the warnings and hurt themselves, we can't be sued. That's what health and safety measures are for, isn't it?"

The council deny they are looking to recoup some of the money by putting an advertising hording on it.

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