Revamp finally under way at ‘Britain’s most depressing park’

Neighbour Sheila Rowell wonders what is going on at Pocket Park.
Neighbour Sheila Rowell wonders what is going on at Pocket Park.
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FAMILIES are looking forward to new play facilities as work finally gets underway today at a controversial Sunderland park.

Millfield Pocket Park sparked national headlines last summer when concrete “play features” installed in a £70,000 overhaul failed to impress.

After the play area was dubbed “Britain’s most depressing park”, branded a “deathtrap” and compared to a military cemetery, council chiefs agreed to return to “more traditional” play facilities.

Julie Gray, head of community services, said: “We’ve listened to what people wanted, and perhaps more importantly didn’t want.

“As a result, children and their families have given us their vision which we will do our best to create, and hope everyone will be delighted at the end result.

“We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to get involved for their enthusiasm and their fantastic ideas.”

The pocket park – which neighbours say has become a haven for antisocial behaviour – will temporarily close after a free family fun event today, and officially reopen on Thursday, July 28, with another celebration.

Ms Gray said there would be a range of more traditional play equipment in a landscaped community garden.

Features include goals and ball sports area, swings, see-saw, wobble log, clatter bridge, and a multiplay area with climbing nets and slide.

The council said a consultation took place with people in the community to see what they wanted done to improve the park.

Officers said people were asked what kind of park they wanted to see, to avoid the re-occurrence of any antisocial behaviour which the previous play equipment used to attract, and replace it with a more family-friendly environment.

James Blackburn, the senior councillor responsible for the project, said: “The new design includes flat seat and toddler swings, a toddler see-saw and an array of climbing and balancing equipment for older children.

“We have also included football goals and a basketball hoop for the young people.

“As requested the park will also now feature a number of different surfaces including grass, Tarmac and coloured acrylic surfaces suitable for sports, cycling and play.”

The work at Millfield and at other parks across the city was funded by £2.5million of national Play Pathfinder cash, from the previous government.

@pressbench