DROMORE’S Laganvale residents are protesting council plans, as part of a playpark development, to open up an artificial access point locals believe will increase the danger of child abduction and encourage an escalation in existing anti-social behaviour.
Pointing to “widespread support” for the development, the council, meanwhile, says plans to improve accessibility to the playpark must reflect the way the land is being used and it has facilitated on-site meetings with the police and community to consider how best to develop the site with a view to deterring anti-social behaviour.
Unconvinced, residents, the overwhelming majority of whom have signed a petition protesting the access plans, are at odds too with local police, whose assessment, they say, fails to give sufficient weight to community concerns.
It is in relation to a facility Laganvale residents insist has been erroneously labelled the ‘Fairview Park’ play area, that the district council means to widen an existing, artificially created access point from nearby Lynn Avenue and install steps leading down into Laganvale.
“This is a hole in the hedge that was made by the young ones over time,” said one resident, Mr. Brian Mulholland. “It’s a cul-de-sac on the other side and ordinarily people would have to go out and around by Barban Hill to come down onto Meeting Street.
“Now the council is going to widen this hole and put in steps that will allow access down into Laganvale.
“This area already suffers with anti-social behaviour; they throw bottles at people’s homes, smash lights and steali things from people’s gardens. This is only going to make it worse, but the council has said you have to weigh up anti-social behaviour against the benefits of going ahead.
“We tried to get a compromise but none has been forthcoming and we’re far from happy; we are totally opposed to this.”
Residents also believe that the added access and clear through-route will elevate the playpark’s appeal to anyone intent on child abduction.
“They’d have a clear run over Barban Hill to the carriageway,” said Brian.
As things stand, however, the council is pressing ahead with its plans.
A spokesperson said, “The Council has invested over £90,000 in replacing the playpark at Fairview Park in Dromore, which will offer a shared, inclusive environment for children from all surrounding neighbourhoods.
“When the Council started redesigning the play area, it was evident that local people had been using a number of access points as through-routes for quite some time. Therefore, any future plan to improve accessibility to the play park would have to reflect the way the land is currently being used and also provide a safe access to the play area from all the surrounding houses.
“The Council has received widespread support for the playpark and in addition it has facilitated a number of on-site meetings with the police and local community to consider how best to develop the site with a view to deterring anti-social behaviour.”