Give children the freedom to play

PUBLISHED: 11:39 18 May 2006 | UPDATED: 13:30 04 May 2010

I HAVE to put into words my surprise at reading that people living near the developing ball and skate park in St John s Road are complaining about the noise from older children and occasional vandalism. I live near the playing field and, yes, I do hear no

I HAVE to put into words my surprise at reading that people living near the developing ball and skate park in St John's Road are complaining about the noise from older children and occasional vandalism.

I live near the playing field and, yes, I do hear noise but it is the happy noise of youngsters enjoying themselves. From the windows of my home, I am able to see the whole field and, so far, have only seen, once, three youths on the area fairly late into the evening and one person, well past his teenage years, helping himself to wooden planks.

I realise the people signing a petition against the development were disappointed at their failure, but would urge them to consider just how necessary and valuable such a play area is for youngsters and teenagers.

A few years ago, the council provided an excellent play area for toddlers, but older children have not been catered for.

I was born in the St John's area 68 years ago. My friends and I spent many hours playing where the play park is being developed. At that time it was still the remains of a very large pit. We used to cycle along the cinder path, past the Tower Workhouse to Barton Bumps to climb the trees and go tadpoleing in the streams. This area is now a golf course for adults. Many of the fields we played in during the school holidays are now built on and others will soon be covered. Open areas along St John's Road, West End, Fieldside, Upherds Lane, West Fen Road as well as the old Co-op fields are all now housing estates and Angel Drove is an industrial area. The open-air swimming pool (with no time limit!) has disappeared. We have also lost three cinemas: the Rex, the Majestic and the Public Rooms. No longer are three dances held every Saturday night; the Corn Exchange has been demolished and the Drill and WI Halls are used for other purposes. A thriving youth club was held most nights but the hall in Cambridge Road has gone and yet more housing has replaced it.

What has been left or developed for children in recent years? Nothing. Older children have only had two goalposts erected. While youths urinating is not to be condoned, much more is left by the dogs walked in this area, and not always cleaned up by their owners.

I look forward to seeing the youngsters on the park and hearing their laughter. There always has been, and always will be, litter, vandalism and anti-social behaviour from a few, but the majority of young people should not be disadvantaged.

I have not signed the petition as I want the young people to be able to enjoy their free time in the open air rather than being inside, watching TV and playing on computer games.

Arranged activities are to be welcomed. I understand that there are new facilities to be provided for the scouts, guides, cubs and brownies, all of which are led by dedicated adults. However, teenagers still need the freedom that people of my age were able to enjoy when we were young. The few remaining open spaces in Ely give them a chance to make and meet friends, plan their own activities and expend their excess energy as well as avoid street corners, pubs and the attention of the police.

The council should be applauded for identifying the need for such a facility and I, for one, hope the park will be a great success.

MARGUERITE JEFFERSON

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