Family Matters: ‘Playful protest’ helps families send out serious message

Protest at Pitsmoor Adventure Playground
Protest at Pitsmoor Adventure Playground
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SUPPORTERS of Pitsmoor Adventure Playground held a ‘playful protest’ on Saturday to oppose council cuts that will hit what they say is a vital facility for a deprived area of the city.

Families, including some that have used the playground in Melrose Road for two generations, gathered to make posters and a giant, colourful and glittery banner saying ‘save our adventure playground’.

One of the visitors was ward councillor Ibrar Hussain, who told protesters that he remembered playing there as a child.

As reported on these pages last week, Sheffield City Council is making £50 million of budget cuts. That will see staff working for Activity Sheffield who currently run the Pitsmoor playground, plus one in Verdon Street, Burngreave and Highfield Adventure Playground, redeployed or possibly at threat of redundancy.

As a result, the playground would have open access. Supporters say it would mean that most of the equipment at Pitsmoor like the giant slide would have to be taken down, as children using it have to be supervised.

But families are more worried about losing the important work that staff do in keeping youngsters off the streets and out of trouble in an area that has seen its share of tensions.

Grandma Bernadette Biggin said: “They tried to close it in 1994 but the crime rate went up in the area and they had to reopen it within three months.”

Bernadette, who now lives in Firth Park, lived in the neighbourhood until 2000. Her sons James and Corey are grown up now and she is eager to introduce Corey’s two-year-old son CJ to the playground when he is old enough.

She said: “If we don’t have this place children will be getting into trouble, smashing windows or whatever. I’m fed up of doing campaigns for this place. We were campaigning for it only last year. It would cost £80,000 a year to keep it running. Activity Sheffield have a budget of more than £1 million, so what’s the problem? It will cost a lot more if these kids get into trouble.”

Lisa Swift, who works on the Burngreave Messenger community newspaper, said that there had been an angry meeting with council officials at Verdon Street the week before. She said: “Why would you cut something that is working?”

Grandma Yanina Koszalinski remembers sliding down the hillside on cardboard boxes as a child before the adventure playground was built.

She said: “A lot of children around here have a lot going on in their lives. This is a place for them to go that is safe.”

Mum-of-two Lucy Davies, who lives in Melrose Road, said: “My five-year-old and two-year-old love coming here. There is such a mix of kids in the area. It really strikes me they all belong here together and this is a really positive place for them to come and mix.’’

Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for culture, sports and leisure, said: “Sheffield City Council is faced with having to make £50 million of savings this year due to a reduction in Government funding. We are considering how we run our adventure playgrounds at Highfields and Pitsmoor as part of our budget proposals. We are not proposing to close them, but to make them available for community hire or possibly for community management. We’re looking at all options regarding continued access to play equipment.

“We regret that we can no longer staff the facilities at Pitsmoor from April 1, instead we are focusing investment on our mobile Activity Sheffield provision across the city. We are working with local communities, groups and partners to see how we can offer continued access to the play facilities. ”