A POPULAR leisure facility has closed ending the dream of its founder who spent £200,000 of his own money to give kids somewhere to go.
The not-for-profit Dockyard Skatepark, in Pallion, closed yesterday after owner Derek Milligan was forced to throw in the towel due to funding difficulties.
Derek, 33, had been hoping to hold a number of fund-raising parties to keep the facility going after it opened its doors in January.
But his application for a temporary event notice, which would have permitted the events to be held, was rejected by Sunderland City Council after police submitted objections on the grounds of potential crime and disorder, nuisance and public safety.
Derek says this decision has cost him about £12,000 in lost revenue. The money would have been used to keep the facility going and arrange further parties on Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, which he said would have set it up financially into the new year.
“I just can’t afford to try again,” Derek told the Echo.
“I’m frustrated, I’m angry and I’m upset. All the kids rely on it and the five staff are going to lose their jobs just before Christmas.
“The financial cost I can live with, the issue I have a problem with is had the event gone ahead it would have got us through to the other events, and the facility would have kept going for many years to come.
“Unfortunately, it’s at £200,000 now and I’ve got to draw a line in the sand. I can’t continue to put money in.
“This is something that I see all too often today. When I asked for help and support I didn’t get it. I have done it myself with the support of some of the parents and the staff.” He added: “It’s difficult. It’s emotional. It’s something that has taken me a long time to say, that the last year has been for nothing, unless somebody is willing to put something into the pot. But I have tried and I just can’t get anyone to support it.”
Chief Inspector Sean McKenna, of Sunderland Area Command, said: “We carefully consider all requests for a licence to hold any public event.
“Our main criteria is one of public safety. We must be satisfied that the organisers have taken necessary measures to ensure the public will be safe when attending the event, that children are protected from harm, that their plans will ensure there is no public nuisance occurring and that they have taken measures to prevent crime and disorder.
“When we looked at the application for these two events, at the skate park, we were not satisfied that these requirements had been fully met.
“A meeting took place between police and the organisers to discuss the event in November and the concerns we had around it.
“But following this we remained unconvinced and were unable to recommend the event should take place. We felt the event would pose a safety risk to the target audience of 18 to 25-year-olds due to its location – the premises is next to the river and not accessible by public transport – and the fact they may be more vulnerable following alcohol consumption.
“Police are supportive of the skate park and recognise it has had a positive effect in the area, giving young people an enjoyable place to meet and have fun.
“We hope that the park will continue in the future.”