Angry residents are gearing up to take legal action against a council as it prepares to demolish and replace a popular play area.
Friends of Cliftonville Coastline (FOCC) held two protests last weekend urging Thanet District Council (TDC) to reconsider its decision to demolish the playground and to refurbish it.
They also called for better maintenance and play equipment at parks across the district.
Renowned artist Tracey Emin, who is based in Margate, even offered to pay for the ship's repair - but was turned down by the council.
Now, FOCC has since launched a fundraiser to take legal action against TDC so the Viking ship playground is not destroyed. Instead they say it should be renovated to include equipment for those with mobility needs for "a fraction of the cost".
"The biggest problem that blights Thanet playgrounds is the gross lack of maintenance, meaning that many are falling apart and dangerous," a spokesperson for the group said.
They have hired environment planning lawyers Richard Buxton Solicitors to investigate and find out if the correct procedures have been followed by TDC.
Concerns relate to planning permissions, laws to protect wildlife, constitutional aims to engage the local community, local plan commitments and the climate emergency declaration.
A quote by the Children's Playground Company, which designed the play area, states it would cost less than £27,000 to repair it.
This is significantly less than the current £169,000 plans to demolish the existing site and install the replacement play equipment, following a grant by Kent County Council (KCC).
A November 2021 report from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) found the facilities are continuing to deteriorate and the ship's timber is decaying from the inside out.
Earlier this month, TDC closed the site on health and safety grounds with immediate effect. The replacement playground is due to arrive next month but will not reopen until May.
A spokesperson for FOCC said: "The Viking ship playground is a beautiful bespoke natural play area featuring a large and iconic wooden ship that is much loved by local children and visitors.
"It was built with £88,000 from £300,000 in grant funding to improve the lives of local children in 2009.
"We have an itemised quote from the original installer to renovate the playground for £27,000.
"The Children’s Playground Company have based this on the latest health and safety report by RoSPA.
"TDC would prefer to demolish and rebuild at a cost of £169,000."
They have criticised the council for putting the funding all into one playground rather than using it to repair multiple playgrounds.
And they believe the Viking ship will be replaced with a "mass-produced product that destroys all mature planting and does not cater to older kids".
But Cliftonville West councillor Alan Currie (Lab) backs TDC's current plans and says he regularly reports safety issues with the play area.
He says maintenance repairs amounted to £14,000 for 2020/21 from an overall repair budget for Thanet playgrounds of £39,000 - so had became "unsustainable".
"A RoSPA inspection of the Viking Ship play area in December 2020 had flagged up over 80 defects," he said.
Cllr Currie says the new playground, along with a planned skatepark nearby, will be "a fantastic boost the the local community".
TDC says it has already entered into a contract with the supplier as the KCC grant has been committed.
A spokesperson said: "We are committed to completing the project with the confirmed grant funding from KCC and in line with the terms of the agreement. Work has started on the project, and we expect the playground, complete with more inclusive and accessible equipment and safer surfacing, to re-open at the end of May."
They added: "We have not been contacted with an offer to repair the existing play equipment but replacing individual parts would not be a sustainable or viable option. The approved project will provide a high quality and inclusive solution in the long-term.
"We appreciate the ongoing interest in the project from the local community and are grateful for the generous offers of funding from residents, though the council has not received any formal offers. We look forward to working with our communities on exciting projects in the future."
To view the Crowd Justice fundraiser, visit here.