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Penicuik Local Calls for Additional Needs Park

A local woman has started a petition calling for Midlothian Council to provide recreational facilities for children with additional needs.

Gemma Manson of Penicuik wanted to highlight the council’s lack of facilities for disabled children after a “disastrous and upsetting trip to Penicuik Park” with her son, Harry, who has additional needs.

Midlothian Council does not currently have an play parks accessible to children with AN (additional needs) with parents having to travel to specialist facilities in the capital, mainly ‘The Yard’, which featured in BBC One’s DIY SOS.

Gemma said:

To be fair [the lack of facilities] is not something I had thought too much about until we started getting slightly better weather. Harry could just fit in a baby swing last summer so it hadn’t been an issue until recently. After the incident I got upset, then angry and did abit of research on what Midlothian parks actually have to suit kids with AN, turns out [they have] very little to none!

Ms Manson says that a AN public play park would be a tourism opportunity for the council and could draw in parents and their children from across the central belt. Her petition calls for a dedicated park, possibly situated near the established Vogrie Country Park, but in an interview with us, she said that she would be happy to see just a couple of pieces of equipment in every park:

I ‘d like for there not to just be1 or 2 pieces ofequipment suitable in each park in Midlothian, I’d like a park where every piece as is accessible as it can be for children like Harry. You wouldn’t just put one piece of play in an average park would you? In terms of area, there are a couple of options. Simply, a dedicated park somewhere in Midlothian, on abus route etc. Vogrie would be great, as alongside the parks already there, it would be a fully inclusive space for whole families to go.

The campaign leader also highlights that such a park could be incorporated near the Bright Sparks at the Cockpen Centre in Dalkeith:

There is also a patch of wasteland just opposite Bright Sparks in Bonnyrigg at the Cockpen Centre. Bright Sparks is a centre/playgroup for kids with any sort of disability/needs aged 0-15. Their play area requires upgrading and a park just over from them, would kill two birds with one stone.

However this mother is willing to go beyond the call of duty to secure a lasting legacy for additional needs play in Midlothian. She says that if the petition fails to ruffle feathers, she will take to fundraising the cost to provide the equipment and would expect Midlothian Council to do their duty and supply some land.

When asked whether she feels the council are no longer listening to the wishes of the public, Ms Manson replied:

I think most Councils have lost sight of the average person. The council spends a fortune on supplying staff with iPads, taxi expenses and costs for social events. Is all this really necessary? Is this how anyone would want their money spent? I do think this [the park] is a necessary and important resource and it would even make the Council stand out from the crowd. The Council policy is Get It Right For Every Child; this is not happening. My child is being put at a disadvantage because he is disabled. Simple as that.

The e-petition is available to view online by following the link, At the time of publication, the petition had 1,618 signatures and it has achieved acclaim from many local community members. One director of a specialist play equipment company, Inclusive Play based in Edinburgh, said:

We do a lot of work with charities and councils to make areas more inclusive and I would love to work with yourself, Gemma and Midlothian council to help create an inclusive playground.

Meanwhile a local Labour councillor, Adam Montgomery, has been helping Gemma with progressing the campaign through the council.

[Image © The Yard Edinburgh]