The Greensand Trust “does not know what more it could have done” to ensure its giant slide was safe for visitors after a court ordered the charity pay £5,000 damages to the family of a young child injured on the attraction.
The giant slide at Rushmere Country Park has been closed to the public since the court ruling, with the future of the piece of play equipment now under review “due to risks posed by potential public liability claims”.
The claim made against The Trust related to a child, aged under 5, who sustained injuries in 2014, and was heard at Milton Keynes Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday January 17, where the court ordered the payout.
The Greensand Trust posted a brief message about the closure on Rushmere’s Facebook page yesterday (Tuesday) and a spokesman told the LBO today: “The slide was closed on 18th January, whilst we consider its future as part of the play offer at Rushmere Country Park.
“We do not wish to go into the specifics of the case brought against us.
“We can confirm that the slide has always and continues to meet European safety standards as verified by regular independent play inspections.
“We did make our signage more prescriptive in 2015 of what is obviously a very long and steep slide, as it became apparent accompanying adults were allowing very young children to use the slide, when a more suitable slide is available for under 5s.”
She added: “We conscientiously check and maintain the slide to a very high standard, and we do not know what more we could have done to ensure the slide was safe for use by visitors. Given we can reasonably do no more, we are giving careful consideration as to whether, on balance, we can afford to maintain the slide as part of our play offer.
“Our play policy sets out our objectives in terms of play and its importance. We know the slide is very popular with visitors and we are giving very careful consideration to all aspects of this decision.”
The news has prompted an avalanche of responses on the Trust’s Facebook page for Rushmere Country Park.
One person said: “Ridiculous. When used correctly and under supervision that slide is safer than the woods it is situated in. Whoever has put a ‘claim or complaint’ in....shame on you!”
Another said: “So disappointing, part of being a child and adult is that we all have accidents, my son absolutely loves the slide! Health and safety gone crazy, let kids play and have fun!”
However another parent said: “My daughter (age 7) actually went head first in to the fence and had a massive bump. The team at Rushmere were helpful and got an ice pack. The next time we went they had put foam padding on the fence, so we were pleased! No claim made, would never even cross my mind... although if it is causing injuries it probably is for the best to remove in my opinion. I thought ours was an isolated accident.”
The Trust can ill afford compensation payouts as it runs Rushmere on a not-for-profit basis and points out that the park “needs significant resources to manage and protect it”.
In June it upped its parking fees from £2 to £3, while in November it also introduced a permit policy, meaning commercial dog walkers, professional photographers and anyone else using Rushmere Park for business purposes needed to pay for the privilege.
> Do you understand the Greensand Trust’s decision? Should the slide be reopened or closed permanently? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Greensand Trust Play Policy...
As a local charity dedicated to the protection, conservation and enhancement of the local environment, The Greensand Trust actively supports and encourages people to sensitively engage with, explore and learn about their environment. The provision of both play equipment and natural play opportunities is one method by which we seek to provide opportunities for people within the environment. This encourages people from an early age to explore and learn while having fun.
The play areas provided are for the enjoyment of children and their parents. In providing this play area we acknowledge the relationship between risk and play value and take reference from the statement on “Managing Risk and Play” by the Play Safety Forum.
Our play areas are designed to incorporate risk to provide challenge for the children that use it. In our opinion the level of risk is acceptable and we have adopted a regular maintenance regime to ensure as far as practicable, that this level remains acceptable.
Our equipment is sourced from specialist play companies, and independently checked on a regular basis. Risk assessments have been made for the play area and are available for inspection by any interested party. The risk assessments will be reviewed in line with any changes to the play area.
We believe that this is a responsible approach to risk and play value and therefore we will not accept any responsibility for any accidents that might occur in these play areas.