Public meeting on �1m playground united on need to stop the yobs destroying children’s future

ANGRY residents described last night how yobs had blighted their lives since the development of the �1million Waterlees playground in Wisbech.

At a stormy public meeting at the Oasis Centre in Wisbech, residents criticised a lack of security and policing at the playground and claimed to have been tormented by drunken youths who have ‘taken it over’ in recent weeks.

Ironically police had to leave temporarily after two residents took phone calls during last night’s meeting to say rocks were being thrown at their windows from youngsters who were on the playground.

One resident, who only wished to be named as Sally, said: “We’re fighting a losing battle after 8pm.

“I can’t even sit in my back garden now because of the foul language and intimidation. If I could move tomorrow I would.

“The good kids who want to use the park have been excluded because they are frightened and being chased off by troublemakers.

“I wasn’t against the park being built but there’s no chance my 6-year-old is ever going to that area to play. We need to give the ownership back to the good kids.”

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A resident of Gloucester Court, who lives near the playground, said that police were “losing a fighting battle” to prevent troublemakers from ruining the showcase play park.

Lloyd Forster, who lives opposite the park, said: “Yobs have made the playground their own and it’s going to be one hell of a job getting them off.”

After facing an initial barrage of criticism the developments key players, including Mike Davey, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Director of Community Engagement for Fenland, Gayle Gorman, the council’s Director of Learning, Jane Leet, Partnership Manager and Councillor Martin Curtis, received support from many who offered their help and ideas to prevent anti-social behaviour continuing.

County councillor Steve Tierney, who joined the public during the meeting, said: “I would quite like somewhere nice for my son to play and yes mistakes have been made but most children would like somewhere like this.

“We need to take ownership back and I would be willing to give up any five hours to stand in the park to help.”

Kareena, of Southwell Road, said: “We need to give the good kids a chance; they need this area to play.

“We’ve got to get the teenagers involved in the development so they respect it.”

Cllr Curtis, county council Cabinet member for children, said: “Tonight has been an eye-opener and I want to apologise for the problems you’ve been dealing with.

“We do need to beef-up security again and we will take away these issues and work a way forward. The important thing is to provide a fantastic facility for a community that needs it.

“Let’s allow the right kids to win.”

Ms Leet said: “We are working hard to positively engage the young children who are hanging about and causing damage.

“We’ve stepped up security in an effort to make the area safer. We are meeting with the police and have a list of potential names that have been causing problems and we need to engage with them.”

Andrew Lane of Sutcliffe Play, the playground’s contractors, even admitted he had seen worse problems at other sites.

He said: “We’ve built playgrounds in other areas that have been described as deprived wards and I’d say this is the best in terms of lack of damage to equipment.

“It’s only really the barges that have been attacked.”

Increased security arrangements were discussed that may see lighting and CCTV cameras installed on the site.

Another meeting is expected to be held within the next six to eight weeks to monitor the park’s progress and its impact on residents.

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