Ambitious soft play plans hit brick wall

AMBITIOUS proposals for a new soft play area have fallen flat, but councillors have not given up entirely.

Member Bell Fraser has called on Widdrington Station and Stobswood Parish Council to provide a purpose-built soft play facility in the community similar to privately-run enterprises in Morpeth, Amble and Alnwick.

She said the play area would be a popular addition to the area and would meet the needs of parents and young children.

“The kids have got nothing so I would like to propose building a soft play area, like Castle Mania.

“My granddaughter had a birthday party there and all the kids loved it,” she said.

“Everybody was saying the kids have nothing in this village and nobody fights for the kids. Why not give them something like that?”

However, fellow councillors said that while they welcomed the idea, there would be huge problems in delivering the scheme.

Parish Chairman Joe Sennett said: “I fully appreciate what you are saying and applaud the idea, but the first thing that comes to mind is where are you going to put it?

“How much is it going to cost to build and how much is it going to cost to run every year? It has to be sustainable.”

Coun Anderson Crowe agreed.

“The Morpeth one is in a building that was already there and it’s the same with Castle Mania. That is the problem — housing it,” he said.

Coun Shelly Willoughby also made the point, but said the council could look to run summer trips to existing facilities.

“I do see where you are coming from, but I don’t know how we could achieve it in this village,” she said.

“We may can look towards the summer holidays to see if we can help by providing a bus and organising a trip for kids from the village to go to another place, but I don’t know how we could achieve building something like this.”

Coun Jacek Juszczyk acknowledged the difficulties of providing a purpose-built facility, but suggested that something on a smaller scale could be offered in existing community buildings.

“I know what you are saying, but I don’t think that we as a parish council can afford to build this and there is probably nowhere that is big enough that we could use,” he said.

“The best we could do is go to companies like Castle Mania and see if they would be interested in starting one up here, but then it would still need staff and you are not going to be getting trained staff for pennies.

“It is not something you could do with volunteers.

“We could look at the possibility of using the school, which has got a soft play area, but it is very small.

“There is also the possibility of asking ATAC if there is a space there, or using the community centre.

“However, we are never going to get anything on the same scale as Castle Mania unless somebody from outside comes in and sets it up and runs it.”

Councillors said there would be problems with storing equipment in the community centre, but Coun Juszczyk offered to raise the issue at a governors meeting in October to see if any arrangements can be made for a small-scale play area at Grange View First School.