Protesters block bulldozer in fight to save Sheffield skate park

Protesters stood in the way of a bulldozer to save a Sheffield skate park from destruction.

By Robert Cumber
Tuesday, 16 April, 2019, 15:53

Workers arrived this morning at Philadelphia Gardens in Upperthorpe to rip down the skate bowl and ramp, along with a slide which is reputed to be the longest in the city, for health and safety reasons.

Protesters standing in the way of a bulldozer at the skate park in Philadelphia Gardens, Upperthorpe

But they found their path blocked by a handful of demonstrators opposed to the loss of what they claim is one of precious few remaining resources for older children in the area.

The green space is just up the road from where 23-year-old Aseel Al-Essaie was shot dead in Feburary 2017, and two guns were recently found hidden off a nearby street.

Campaigners say they are trying to reclaim the gardens, where the Kelvin Flats used to stand, from the gangs who carry out drug deals there.

Protesters in the skate bowl

They claim improving the facilities for those of all ages, rather than removing them, is the best way to get more people using the park and deter criminals.

A notice at the entrance to the grounds, off Daniel Hill, states that the old playground and skate bowl are due to be removed for health and safety reasons, with the area to be re-landscaped.

The poster, which was put up by Sheffield Council, informs people that the ‘site improvements' were due to begin last Tuesday, April 9, and take two weeks.

A notice publicising the planned works

Residents living nearby say the notice only appeared the day before works were due to begin, without any consultation having taken place with households in the area, and when they contacted the council to object they received no response.

However, the council said the planned demolition was part of a wider programme of works within the gardens carried out following consultation.

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After a short stand-off this morning, workers left the site and protesters said they were assured the demolition would be put on hold pending a meeting with representatives from the council.

Fred Vellacott, who says his three children, aged eight to 13, often use the skate bowl, was among half a dozen demonstrators at the site.

A ramp and slide at the site

He said: “It’s pretty well-used over the summer, and there’s nothing else like this locally, but there’s been no consultation with any of the users.”

The basketball court within the gardens was recently refurbished by the council, but protesters said there had been no mention of plans to remove the skate park when that work was announced.

Fay Kenworthy, former secretary of the Friends of Philadelphia Gardens, said: “There’s a little playground here but nothing for older children to use other than this skate park.

“The more people use this park, the safer it will feel and the less likely you are to get people hanging round selling drugs.

“Taking away facilities like this which attract people to the park is just handing over the space to drug dealers.”

Lisa Firth, the council’s head of parks & countryside and bereavement services, said: “This is the last phase of improvements to Philadelphia Gardens, a programme of work that has been carried out after consultation with local councillors and with the full support of the Friends Of Philadelphia Gardens.

“The scheme has included major improvements to the multi-use games area and nearby woodland. It has been made possible through Section 106 and public health money.

“We have met with people on the site today and assured them that we will host a further meeting to ensure they are fully aware of our plans.”