ANGER IN KIRCUBBIN OVER PLANS FOR CHILDRENS PLAY PARK

KIRCUBBIN parents have banded together to block workmen from demolishing their children’s beloved playpark.

Parents were stunned when the workmen arrived with grinding tools on Monday morning to remove the equipment at the Parsonage Road park which has been earmarked for removal by Ards and North Down Council.

The parents, and local councillor Robert Adair, were angered by the move especially as the decision to remove the playpark at Parsonage Road is being challenged by local people with talks scheduled to take place next week.

The removal of the playpark was approved by councillors back in October as part of the council’s 10-year Play Strategy. Instead, the council is planning to upgrade another Kircubbin playpark at The Green to a higher standard, Tier One facility – at a cost of £170,000 – which the council says will leave the Parsonage Road facility surplus to requirements.

In a consultation exercise conducted by the council last autumn, just over 76% of the 227 people quizzed about the plans supported the upgrading of the Green playpark, although people living near the Parsonage Road park say they knew nothing about the consultation.

The man who is spearheading the battle to retain the park at Parsonage Road is Christopher Atcheson, the father of a severely autistic four year-old boy, also called Christopher, who uses the park every day.

Christopher says his son will face significant distress if the more local park is dismantled. It was this fear of the future for his son which led him to mount the campaign.

He initially gathered an online petition of 400 signatures, but decided to gather a paper petition strictly from Kircubbin residents which has so far seen 200 people signing.

It was on Monday morning that Christopher received a text message telling him that contractors had arrived at the Parsonage Road park and were putting fencing around the play equipment.

“I flew down as quick as I could  and I asked the men ‘what is going on?” said Christopher. “They said they were just doing their jobs.”

“When the three men then took out their grinders I got onto Robert Adair, and he said he didn’t know what was going on and didn’t think this was supposed to be happening,” said Christopher.

“In no time we had 20 parents here and as soon as they arrived, I got them all into the park moving them in so the builders couldn’t do anything.

“They packed up their fences, they packed up their gear, and away they went. Everybody was absolutely raging, not just me, all of the parents who were there were absolutely disgusted,” he added.

Christopher and other parents will be meeting with council officials next Monday to discuss the future of the Parsonage Road playpark.

“Relief will come on Monday, if they say they are saving the park. At the minute, there is no relief whatsoever, because we honestly don’t know what is happening, all of the parents are living in fear,” states Christopher.

Alderman Adair stated that the council needs to review the decision to get rid of Parsonage Road Park, especially after the incident on Monday.

“If those parents had not seen what was going on yesterday, we would be having a different conversation today,” Mr Adair believes. “Any decision to do anything about the park should have been postponed until after the meeting on Monday.

“But the more I speak to people, the more I engage with parents, I feel we need to look at this decision (to close the park) again. I have spoken to locals in the last number of weeks, I feel there is a will to keep the playpark on Parsonage Road.

“I think the Parsonage Road playpark needs to stay. The 200 signatures collected by Christopher will have an impact on Monday’s meeting. What I will say to my fellow councillors is to consider the people at the end of the decision,” he added.

A council spokesman denied that a meeting had been planned for next Monday. “It was only after they (the workmen) arrived that a meeting was requested,” he said.

“Following a significant public consultation in September 2023, elected members approved the project at a council meeting in October 2023 and council officers were given permission to proceed. It is not usual to advise elected members on operational matters.”