Make re-opening of People’s playpark a priority - council urged

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Replacing fire damaged equipment at Ballymena’s People’s Park should be a priority for Mid and East Antrim Council, according to a DUP assemblyman.

Paul Frew said he was horrified after seeing the damage caused by an arson attack on the main climbing frame in the award winning park.

The fire damaged main climbing frame at the People's Park, Ballymena.

The fire damaged main climbing frame at the People's Park, Ballymena.

He said: “The floors on several levels are burned through, the side panelling is now missing and the main wooden post supporting the structure is charred by fire. It’s just devastating.”

But Mr Frew said he was ‘alarmed’ at reports coming from Council indicating it could be months before the play park is reopened.

He said: “There is a great deal of real anger in the local community at this act of vandalism. I, like many local people, am calling on council to give re-opening this park a ‘priority status’.

“Local people have contacted me to offer their services for free - they include joiners and structural engineers.”

A burned piece of equipment

A burned piece of equipment

When asked for a comment on Mr. Frew’s statement, Mid and East Antrim Council referred to their original statement made in the immediate aftermath of the vandalism.

At that time, Mayor Audrey Wales said: “The extent of the fire damage is significant and has meant that fencing will have to be erected around the whole multi-play area to keep children from entering. In effect, this mindless act means that our children are now being denied the chance to play outdoors throughout the summer months.

“It looks like the structure cannot be repaired as the uprights have been badly burnt making it structurally unsafe, which is a dreadful shame.”

She added that the very earliest the structure could be removed and replaced will be well into the darker nights in the autumn.

Damage at the play area

Damage at the play area

“This kind of conduct is wholly unacceptable and I am very annoyed that this pointless act of sheer vandalism has destroyed a very important resource for our children.

“As we are now into the brighter nights when children should be outside enjoying the park, this is particularly galling,” she added.

Pending reports, most if not all of the play area equipment will have to be demolished and replaced at consideration cost to the ratepayer.

“At the present time this is estimated to be a figure well in excess of £65,000 representing an unnecessary and added burden to the Borough’s ratepayers,” Cllr Wales concluded.