Approval for play areas despite fears

Councillor Jonathan Brash in Baden Street. Picture by FRANK REID. IRN

Councillor Jonathan Brash in Baden Street. Picture by FRANK REID. IRN

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COUNCILLORS voted unanimously to approve plans for two new play areas – despite fears over anti-social behaviour.

The playgrounds will be built on land opposite Glamis Walk, in the Owton Manor area of Hartlepool, and on land opposite the Sure Start centre, in Hindpool Close, on the town’s Central Estate.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s planning committee gave the go-ahead to the plans, which have been created under the national Playbuilder scheme.

Councillors said similar play facilities in their area had generally had a positive impact and people should not create a “smear on the young people of Hartlepool”.

Five letters of objection were received regarding the Glamis Walk site, stating concerns about anti-social behaviour, under-age drinking, vandalism and noise concerns among reasons.

One resident, whose elderly mother-in-law lives in Glamis Walk, told the meeting anti-social behaviour would increase if the facility, aimed at eight to 13-year-olds, was to go ahead.

The man, who did not wish to be named, said his mother-in-law had encountered a number of problems with youths, including raw eggs thrown at windows, her wheelie bin being stolen and set on fire, empty cans of beer left in hedges and plant pots being stolen.

The man said: “Creating a facility which will attract more youths is inevitably only going to aggravate that situation.”

One letter of objection was received regarding the Hindpool Close site, stating similar anti-social behaviour concerns, but councillors also voted unanimously to approve this application.

Councillor Jonathan Brash, who represents the Burn Valley ward, said: “I have had experience of other (Playbuilder) sites elsewhere in the town.

“I completely and totally support this application.

“The biggest single complaint we have is about young people hanging around.

“But when we challenge why they are hanging around and doing what people don’t like, they say it’s because there is nothing to do for them.

“But when we get proposals to give them something to do, we get complaints.

“It’s a completely preposterous situation.”

He said the assumption that “allowing children to play will lead to anti-social behaviour and vandalism” is a “terrible smear on the young people of Hartlepool”.

The meeting was told there was no money available for security cameras or increased lighting at either of the sites.

The Playbuilder scheme came under threat nationally last year when Government funding cuts were looming.

But 12 of the initiatives in Hartlepool have been approved after finance was allocated.