Residents angry over loss of popular outdoor play area in Wendover

Parents claim they were not consulted over removal of equipment at Helicopter Park

By Olga Norford
Monday, 17th January 2022, 10:57 am
Updated Monday, 17th January 2022, 10:58 am

The removal of an outdoor children's pay park at St Mary's Gate in Wendover has angered residents who say they have lost one of the area's main family amenities.

They also claim there has been no consultation over the dismantling of Helicopter Park, located between Haddington Close and Cruikshank Drive, near the PMG development.

Many have taken to social media with numerous posting on the 'Everything Wendover' site, raising concerns and questioning whether there were any plans to replace the facility.

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Residents are unhappy at the removal of children's play equipment at Helicopter Park in Wendover

Branwen Evans said:“Over the last 48 hours RAF contractors have, with no notice, removed all the play equipment from Helicopter Park.

“Many of you will know what an important community facility this was, one of the few local parks with modern and safe play equipment, car parking and access and a surface which meant it was useable in all conditions, even the extremely muddy conditions we have at present. And, of course, it had the best views of any park in the country.

“The park was funded by taxpayers and a very significant s106 contribution from the PMG developers. There has been no consultation with the community about this removal, and no alternative facilities have been proposed. While there were issues with older children damaging some of the play equipment, much of what has been removed was very expensive, undamaged equipment which we’ve been told will now be scrapped, which seems a huge waste.

She added: “Young children have missed out enormously in the last two years because of covid. Outdoor parks are one of the few things that have been consistently available, and this park is a huge part of many Wendover families’ routine. It enabled children to exercise and get fresh air, contributing to health and well-being and ensuring children could socialise in a fully ventilated space.

Sheila Bulpett, chair of Wendover Parish Council, explained the park was owned by the Ministry of Defence and that the parish council was not responsible for maintenance nor did it have any jurisdiction over what happens to the equipment or facilities which was essentially private property.

She added: "The Helicopter Park at the Princess Mary Gate development has been subject to vandalism for some time. Initially an idea to install CCTV was put to RAF Halton by the council, in a bid to stop the damage. The RAF reported that CCTV could not be installed on MOD land. The Royal Air Force Police stepped up their patrols in an effort to prevent further damage.

"Over the last year the park has been fenced off at times, when vandalism has caused the park to be unsafe. In November, the council received notification from the RAF Halton Wing Commander stating that the repair cost for the past couple of years was already £8,000. They made the decision that any further damage would result in the removal of equipment that would ultimately lead to the closure of the park. The residents on the estate were informed in November.

Ms Bulpett said the council had enquired whether the RAF would be willing to gift the park to the parish council to maintain. This was investigated by the the MOD which stated that while the Helicopter Park was owned and managed by MOD, the land was owned by Annington Homes and that the likelihood of the asset being gifted was deemed unlikely but official notification was requested.

She added: "No updates were received in December. In January information came to light with regard to the initial funding of the park. AVDC contributed about £70k to the overall project which included the MUGA, the Helicopter Park and the Pirate Park at Tedder Road (£450k for whole project) with the main focus of the WPC being the MUGA for teenagers. The contribution came from s106 funding from PMG developers. Annington Homes own the land the Helicopter Park is on and whilst the contract between the MOD and Annington enables DIO to install (or remove) parks for our community (at their expense) it appears Annington Homes would not agree the transfer of such parks to a third party.

"On January 12, we received notification from several residents stating that items in the park were being removed. This was confirmed by a site visit. We had not been given any prior notice of the removal date.

"Clearly this had not left us any opportunity to investigate further and/or consider any actions. WPC does not own any land close to the Princess Mary Gate development, so we cannot simply replace the park. It is a sad indictment that the behaviour of a few individuals prevents many others from enjoying community facilities.

"The WPC office has received several emails and phone calls from residents, most of which are terribly upset that this community asset is being removed, but it was beyond the WPC control.

"Complaints should be sent to the RAF at the following email address: [email protected]"