Middlesbrough Council put forward proposals for the play area aimed at younger children with equipment, surfacing and perimeter fence on land near Caldicotes Primary Academy on Spencerfield Crescent, Thorntree. However the police took issue with the plan, deemed to be in a secluded area of high crime.
Visits to a nearby multi-use games area (MUGA) revealed “broken fencing and evidence of tyre tracks showing anti-social use of off-road motorcycles”, according to a council report. And a nearby former play area had suffered “vandalism and abuse, which has left it beyond use”.
“It is considered that the proposed play area will experience a similar outcome,” states the report. “The location would not allow the play area to be a desirable, safe or secure community facility.”
A designing out crime officer from Cleveland Police said the site was not recommended as it could generate crime, increase fear of crime and attract anti-social behaviour. The police argued it was at the back of people’s homes with poor lighting and little “natural surveillance” from houses or busy public areas, with “many hideaways and escape routes to enable anti-social behaviour and other crime”.
The council report said: “The application site is considered to be secluded and would not be a particularly welcoming amenity for the community.” It adds a 2m-high fence could be installed to combat anti-social behaviour, but this would harm views and surroundings in a green wedge area and make the facility “unappealing and uninviting”.
Planning officers recommended the scheme be refused, saying in the report: “With no alterations or revisions to the proposals, the council considers that significant weight should be given to the objection from Cleveland Police. The primary purpose of the play area would be to provide a facility for children and families to utilise and enjoy, but it is considered that this must be in a location which provides reasonable safety through being overlooked or similar.”
No objections except from Cleveland Police were received. Councillors on the council’s planning committee voted to refuse the plan.
After the meeting, Councillor David Coupe said it was a strange case of the council putting forward a plan, yet eventually turning it down. He said: “It was decided it was too dangerous and it would get vandalised.
“It was decided it really wasn’t a suitable site. If you have any children between five and 10 playing in that area and there wasn’t any oversight from adults, it could cause problems with anti-social behaviour. There was a very strong objection from the police.”
Brambles and Thorntree Coun Graham Wilson supported the plan, saying: “I instigated it. We’ve been looking for somewhere for the kids for a long time.
“I’m still in favour. My main concern is we’ve got nothing for the kids of Brambles Farm.
“We’re trying to give the kids something for them to do, anything to get them off the streets, keep them happy, give them some focus, somewhere to go. There’s nowhere else in Brambles Farm where you can put any sort of play park.
“If we got the go-ahead for the park, the lights would have been improved, the fence damage would have been repaired, the likelihood is we would have got at least one CCTV camera. The MUGA is well used. I’m disappointed because I was thinking of the kids. Come the summer holidays the kids have got nowhere.”