Arson hit play area official reopening

The official reopening of Harrogate’s Valley Gardens children’s play area will take place later today.

The popular wooden fort which was the centrepiece of the play area was completely destroyed in an arson attack in October 2011. The loss of the attraction saddened local children and parents. The outrage felt by the local community led to the setting up of a Facebook page which sought to track down the arsonists.

8 youths were quickly arrested in connection with the fire. Three were later charged whilst 5 were freed without further action. The two 17 year olds and 1 16 year old, who were charged, appeared before the Harrogate Youth Court in March.

Immediately following the fire the Council assured the public that it would replace the popular play equipment. The Council’s insurance covered most of the costs. However, as a result of the insurance policy excess there was a shortfall. The shortfall was covered by fundraising from the local community including £2,000 from the Menwith Hill Community Heartbeat Fund and from Friends of Valley Gardens.

The design for the new centrepiece was put out for public consultation with discussions centring around the durability and aesthetics of the new play area but also how to reduce the risk of another arson attack. The new, more open design by Eibe Play Ltd was chosen. It includes a wobble bridge, climbing walls, monkey bars, rope bridge and a slide.

The whole Valley Gardens play area was closed for safety reasons between Monday 19 March and Monday 26 March. When it reopened, the public was given its first chance to try out the new facilities in the glorious March weather.

The official reopening will take place today (3 April 2012) at 12 noon. The ceremony will be presided over by Councillor Les Ellington. The ribbon will be cut by local boy Kian Clegg of Knaresborough.

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