Video: The state of Thetford’s play areas

The play area in Canon’s Walk has no swings, the jungle gym is covered in graffiti and two mystery pieces of equipment have been ripped out entirely.

Just outside the area’s fencing, a dented bin is surrounded by litter, including broken glass, cigarette butts and empty beer cans.

Would you want your child playing here?

This week the Bury Free Press visited six of Thetford’s eight play areas which are run by Breckland Council.

The pictures and video we took show the scale of repairs needed to bring many of the sites up to a usable standard.

Many of the parents we spoke to said the play areas were not up to scratch.

And most admitted they would now rather go to the Castle Park in the middle of the town than to their nearest park.

The parks we visited which were in the worst condition also had another giveaway sign of the work that needs to be done - there were no children playing there.

That was despite it being a sunny day, just after schools had closed for the day.

Our visits were made while Breckland await a ‘wish list’ from Thetford Town Council, outlining what they would like to see repaired at each play area.

While they await the list, Breckland has responsibility for upkeep of the areas.

Mark Kiddle-Morris, Breckland’s executive member for assets and strategic development, admitted he had not visited all the play areas, but said the community had a responsibility to keep them in good condition.

“If anything is unsafe at these sites then we take them out or do what we can to repair them.

“But we have had things like swings taken out because of requests from residents saying they were dangerous,” he said.

He added that budgetary constraints meant the council was often unable to carry out anything beyond maintenance.

“We will have to find some money from somewhere to do work once the town council has given us their wish list.

“I only have about £10,000 a year for play areas, which will not pay for much,” he said.

William Nunn, leader of Breckland Council, said the handover of play areas from the district council to town councils was designed to solve the problems Thetford is having.

The council has around £200,000 available in match funding for projects to apply for.

However, it can not give money from the fund to itself - effectively meaning that for the play areas to be repaired, they need to be taken into town council ownership, according to Cllr Nunn.

“We were getting flack for spending money on play areas in towns but not villages, which is why we started to make these changes more than five years ago.

“We’ve admitted that we don’t know exactly what the towns want. If they run the play areas, they can decide what they want and then apply for the match funding,” he said.

Cllr Nunn agreed that it is ‘disheartening’ for parents to see the play areas in a bad condition.

“I’ve seen some of the areas in the past and I know how it feels when they are in a state.

“But the people that are vandalising these places need to take responsibility, because it’s not children leaving glass and beer cans all over them.”

What do you think of the state of the play areas in Thetford? What needs to be done?