Shelved playground schemes given a new lifeline

A dozen playground schemes, including two in north Norfolk, which looked to have hit the buffers earlier this year when funding was put on hold have been given a second lifeline.

Money pledged via the Playbuilder scheme, which provides community groups with cash to revamp and create new play areas, was frozen in the run-up to the government's spending review.

It meant those behind 12 projects in Norfolk, which had been given �47,000 each just weeks prior to the announcement, were left with the heartbreaking job of telling hundreds of local children that their promised swings, slides and climbing frames were unlikely to appear.

Now they have a chance to get their plans under way once more after the government released �337,000 to Norfolk County Council to share between the affected schemes.

Ten projects now receive �27,500 each, including two local ones at Mundesley, and Aldborough and Thurgarton.

'We're very excited that it's back on. It's still quite a substantial amount of money,' said Sue Baldwyn, Aldborough and Thurgaton parish councillor and mother of daughters aged four and nine.

The council plans to replace play equipment in Aldborough which is at least 25 years old and the original scheme is now being reworked by the designer to match the smaller budget.

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All the groups must have their play areas complete by the end of March next year and Mrs Baldwyn said she had 'hit the ground running' when she received news of the grant earlier this month.

Contracts were expected to be signed in Mundesley last night so that work can get underway in the next fortnight on replacement play equipment for the village's Gold Park.

'It should be ready as a Christmas present for the children,' said Jackie Thornton, volunteer fund-raiser with Mundesley Youth and Community Project.

The �30,000 cost of a 20m zipwire, play tractor, tunnel slide, net climbing frame, nest swings and revamped existing mound and tunnel is being met by topping up the grant with �2,500 of approximately �13,000 raised by the community.

'We thought we were going to have to do our own fund-raising for everything after the money was frozen so we were really pleased to hear we'd got anything at all,' said Mrs Thornton.

The play equipment, chosen after consulting the children, is the first part of an ambitious �600,000 three-stage project which will also provide a skatepark and community centre.

Children at Mundesley's schools recently raised �1,400 towards the cause with a day spent dressed up as super heroes. Future fund-raisers include a Christmas Food Fair in the village's Coronation Hall on December 3, from 7-9pm.

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said the Playbuilder grants were a welcome morale boost in difficult economic times.

She added: 'Although the funding has been reduced, our allocation is beyond what we could have expected and will be a significant boost to communities across the county.'