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The council said that closing the “strategically unimportant” sites would generate savings that could be used to revamp others elsewhere in the borough. One of those that could shut is the local playground at Roseholme in Fant, close to the entrance to the designated wildlife area.
Local Labour party activists held a public meeting at the play area on Saturday. Constituency party chairman Paul Harper said: “In built-up areas playgrounds are essential to give children the ability to have safe spaces to play in, and the chance to stay fit.”
He has started a petition that has already attracted signatures from 200 families opposed to the closure. He said: “So far we’ve had a unanimous response from all those we’ve asked.”
Former Maidstone Mayor, Morel D’Souza, who lives nearby added: “I’m outraged. People want this playground improved, not closed. The council is not listening to local people. It is an absolute disgrace.”
The play area has a basketball court, benches and a slide, but a request from people for swings has gone unfulfilled. Labour is receiving unexpected support from the local Green party.
Maidstone branch leader Stuart Jeffery described the plan as ludicrous and damaging. He added: “Our town has the highest proportion of overweight children at reception school age in the South East. Figures from Public Health England suggest that 24.4% of four-year-olds are overweight.
“Roseholme is full of young families that need places such as this for their kids. Making parents travel further to a play area will simply mean that fewer children get the exercise they need.”
But Maidstsone Council spokesman Louise Smith said: "Any play area that is proposed for closure will be first offered to the community to manage, and if they do not wish to, it will be retained as open space.
"No play area will be closed if there is not a good-standard alternative a short walk away – the aim of the strategy is to ensure that the majority of residents in the borough live a maximum of 12 minutes walk from a good park.
"In the case of Roseholme, the Green Flag winning Clare Park is very close by."
The council is currently consulting on the planned closures.
The public has until March 7 to make their views known by visiting tinyurl.com/pjuh9fp
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