Play area complaint silences laughter of children

CHILDREN’S laughter is widely considered one of life’s greatest pleasures, but not, it seems, if you live in Bakewell.

Parents were rendered speechless when the local council shut one of its most popular play areas, after a disgruntled resident complained about noise.

Families turning up to enjoy a fun morning in the sun at Bakewell Recreation Ground in the Derbyshire town were angered by the new restrictions on opening times, which limits play to four afternoons per week.

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The aggrieved party lodged a formal complaint following the introduction of new “splash pad” to replace a paddling pool. Planning officers then had to carry out a series of tests to determine whether the sound of children playing, coupled with the pump which allows them to splash around on the equipment, constituted nuisance noise levels.

Playground regular and mother-of-two Kate Hunt frequently makes the 18-mile journey to the area from her home in Sheffield with son George and niece Molly, both four.

Mrs Hunt said: “We’ve been visiting the park for years so were shocked to find the wet area closed – it was particularly upsetting for George and Molly.

“Upon investigating we were told the opening hours had been reduced due to one nearby resident complaining about the noise of children playing.

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“It’s beyond belief someone would complain about children having fun – I’m sure the traffic noise from the main road is far more disruptive.

“The council were apologetic and explained the area would still be open at certain times, but these aren’t convenient for everyone.”

Under the restricted hours the wet play area, which features splash pads, will be open from noon to 5pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays and every afternoon during the school summer holidays.

Mrs Hunt added: “Weekday mornings during term-time were an ideal time for parents to visit with pre-school children because the bigger children are at school, so it’s less busy and there’s less chance of them getting knocked over.

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“Visiting in the afternoon would mean less play time, as we would have to leave quite early to pick up my other children from school. Also you can’t control when the sun is going to come out, so there could be hot days where it’s going to waste.”

Derbyshire District Council said it sympathised with parents, but its hands were tied when it came to the anonymous complainant.

A spokesman for the local authority said: “The council freely acknowledges it is in a no-win situation here.

“Some time ago, a local resident complained to us about what he claimed was an increase in noise from the play area since the replacement of an old paddling pool in 2010 by new splash pads.

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“Our officers carried out tests which showed the noise generated from the play area has the potential to represent a statutory nuisance. It’s not only the noise generated by screaming children, but also the pump that works the splash pads.

“The complainant’s view is the play equipment should be resited or closed. However, as the cost of such a move would be significant and its closure unacceptable, we’re trialling a restricted hours operation.

“We are attempting to strike a balance between two sets of views. All feedback will be reported to councillors for further consideration at a meeting early in July.”