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Concerns raised over future of Bluewater play area

PUBLISHED: 15:07 01 September 2016 | UPDATED: 15:07 01 September 2016

The play area is popular with local families

The play area is popular with local families

Archant

The expansion of the shopping centre could put play area at risk, says councillor

Concerns have been raised about the future of a popular play area that could be under threat from the expansion of Bluewater Shopping Centre.

Mandy Garford, a Labour Parish Councillor in Stone, said Bluewater had been unable to confirm that the play area, which is particularly beneficial for autistic children, would be preserved.

In June, the shopping centre announced plans for 300,000 sq ft of new space, and the play area could be threatened by the West Wing retail expansion.

Councillor Garford said: “As a local councillor, I understand that the expansion is important and that Bluewater also provides jobs and retail opportunities for the local people.

“Sadly the area that is being proposed is where the current enclosed play area with sand pit and picnic seating area is. This area is very popular with local families with younger children who visit regularly.

“There are also a large number of autistic children who have relied on this park area as it is enclosed, has sensory play with the sand, is a quieter area away from the main pathways and has disabled seating.

“It would be an absolute travesty for local people to lose this valuable area that is used by so many families when Bluewater has previously prided itself on welcoming families. I am very concerned and would like Bluewater to confirm that this area will not just be lost, but will be preserved or relocated.”

Robert Goodman, Bluewater’s general manager, said: “Families are very important to Bluewater, and many of the management team have children, so we know first hand how crucial it is to ensure families enjoy their time here. That is why we have such a great range of facilities, including parent-child toilets, our recently re-launched nature trail, and three outdoor play areas.

“One of the play areas is located outside The Village, on the site of the proposed extension. At this stage it is too early to say what will happen to the existing play area, but we will always ensure we provide the very best facilities and experiences for families and children.

“Furthermore, the design of any new or enhanced play area would reflect the attributes of the existing one in The Village, from the range of equipment provided to the secure fencing of the area’s perimeter.”

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