A community in Newcastle’s West End has been left outraged after waking up to find a beloved basketball court being demolished.
Residents in Elswick were horrified to see Newcastle City Council sending in a digger on Tuesday to tear up the popular games area in Britannia Place without warning.
Heartbroken locals say that youngsters have since been spotted playing amongst the rubble and that several groups have turned up to play basketball only to discover that their regular court was no longer there, having had no idea it was scheduled for removal.
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To add to their anger, the council has confirmed that the court will not be replaced – but will instead be simply grassed over.
Residents have questioned why they were not consulted about the plans and why the court has been torn up at the start of the school holidays, while fearing that a failure to replace the facilities could lead the area to become a magnet for anti-social behaviour.
Local mum Vivienne Horseman said that “everybody is just in shock” and that there was “nothing wrong” with the court that meant it needed removing.
The Normanton Terrace resident added: “I don’t know why they are grassing it over, there is plenty of grass there already. Young people need something to do and taking this away makes no sense, it just invites trouble.
“I’m just stunned by the whole thing, we all are.”
The removal of the multi use games area (MUGA) is part of a £2m project in which the city council has promised to upgrade every play park in the city, though for some that will actually mean having equipment removed and being grassed over to create “natural play space”.
Britannia Place was listed in 2019 as one site where the council would be creating an ‘alternative’ play space.
That is despite an audit of the city’s play areas finding that there “may be the need to retain and invest in the site as it has good play value in an area of high need” and recommending the addition of CCTV cameras to prevent anti-social behaviour, though the report did say that the MUGA’s loss “would not result in a shortfall in supply”.
A spokesperson for the Elswick Triangle Residents Association said: “We urge other neighbourhoods to check what is scheduled to happen to their play provision against the council’s list and get in touch with the council.
“Those with ‘alternative use’ may be removed without any notice, with nothing of value put in its place.
“They are not notifying or consulting local residents about changes to their play provision, so you too may wake up to see diggers removing your community play areas that are well used, and much needed.”
Locals have also been campaigning recently to save another nearby play park for younger children in Normanton Terrace from being removed too and say they gained assurances from the council that it would be retained and improved.
This is not the first time families have been outraged after seeing a playground torn up under the council’s plans.
There was similar anger in High Heaton last year when a play area in Victoria Glade was removed.
Newcastle City Council was contacted for a comment.
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