Save the Viking Ship Playground

by Friends of Cliftonville Coastline

Save the Viking Ship Playground

by Friends of Cliftonville Coastline
Friends of Cliftonville Coastline
Case Owner
Help us Save the Viking Ship Playground! Richard Buxton Solicitors will investigate whether Thanet District Council have followed the correct procedures in making the decision to demolish not renovate
on 07th March 2022
pledged of £5,000 stretch target from 108 pledges
Friends of Cliftonville Coastline
Case Owner
Help us Save the Viking Ship Playground! Richard Buxton Solicitors will investigate whether Thanet District Council have followed the correct procedures in making the decision to demolish not renovate

Latest: March 31, 2022

We are sad to report that the Viking Ship has been unlawfully demolished :(

It is with great sadness that we can report that Thanet District Council flattened the Viking Ship Playground within hours on Tuesday morning this week. Our lawyers had at the time been working on a …

Read more

We are raising funds to Save the Viking Ship Playground.

The Viking Ship Playground is a beautiful bespoke natural play area featuring a large and iconic wooden ship that is much loved by local families and visitors. It was built with £88K from £300K in grant funding to improve the lives of local children in 2009.

We have an itemised quote from the original installer to renovate the playground for £27K. The Children’s Playground Company have based this on the latest H&S report by RoSPA. TDC would prefer to demolish and rebuild at a cost of £169K. 

We are seeking funds to take legal action against TDC so that: 

  • the Viking Ship Playground is not unnecessarily destroyed when it could be renovated (with additional equipment for those with different mobility needs) for a fraction of the cost
  • the community get best value from COVID recovery grant funding, with stipulations to refurbish, not demolish, what already exists
  • improvements can be made to other deteriorating and dangerous playgrounds, such as the Dane Park Playground
  • ALL playgrounds in Thanet are better maintained to provide safe and imaginative outside play for all children    

We have hired Richard Buxton Solicitors, who are lawyers with expertise in environmental and planning laws. With the funds raised they will be able to properly investigate Thanet District Council’s decision and find out whether the correct procedures have been followed in deciding to demolish the Viking Ship Playground  - a decision which appears to have been made without due consideration of:

  • planning permissions
  • laws to protect wildlife
  • constitutional aims to engage the local community
  • Local Plan commitments
  • grant funding requirements 
  • their Climate Emergency declaration 

With your help we can do this, and ensure that TDC know we are watching and scrutinising their behaviour. We do not have to put up with an inferior local council that does not have our best interests at heart. 

Friends of Cliftonville Coastline was set up in 2018 to protect and improve our beautiful and unique heritage coast for the local residents and visitors of today. We came together with a mutual desire to renovate the Newgate Gap Sea Shelter for the community, but sadly Thanet District Council part dismantled it (without planning permission) when *cleaning up* the coast for the Turner Prize, then gave it to another group. It continues to deteriorate.  Our desire to breathe more love into this neglected section of coast led to the creation of the FOCC community flower beds on Ethelbert Crescent in 2019, which are lovingly managed by a small but dedicated group of volunteers. We champion the vanishing wildlife habitat of our protected coast and persistently call for better waste management with the #cleanupcliftonville campaign. We are currently focused on saving the Viking Ship Playground as an integral and much loved part of the coastline. 

Please donate if you are:

  • Saddened by the loss of the Viking Ship Playground
  • Distressed at the state of all Thanet playgrounds 
  • Frustrated by lack of care for children and community
  • Fed up with poor and unscrutinised decisions made by TDC
  • Upset by false promises to protect wildlife and open spaces

Together we can make a difference!

Many thanks for your support - please do spread the word and share this campaign amongst your friends using the hashtag #saveourvikingship 

Any funds raised will go directly to our lawyers Richard Buxton Solicitors, who will investigate and then notify TDC of any wrong doing. If we raise enough money we will try to investigate and hold TDC to account over other similar issues that affect this part of our beautiful coastline.  

If we raise surplus funds we will try to investigate other issues that affect this part of our beautiful coastline or in efforts to protect it.

Sign the petition here:

Follow Friends of Cliftonville Coastline here:


Maintenance figures:

The only maintenance figure available is for the year 2020-21 when TDC replaced the swings at vast expense, when the only recommendation by RoSPA was for the resetting of the loose swing posts. The cost to reset the posts by the original installer was £840 plus equipment hire/materials.

Annual costs of maintenance:

TDC refuse to answer a request for an annual breakdown of maintenance costs at the playground. How can these costs be cited as a reason, if no figures are readily available? 

From FOI 5297:

How much has been spent, per year, on the maintenance of the Viking Ship Playground, since its installation in 2009. Please provide a detailed yearly breakdown.

Response: "Officers would need to review 12 years of maintenance records, as well as those held by the minor works team, including finding materials purchase receipts etc. Officers expect that complying with this request would take in excess of 20 hours." 

Any local parent will know that no money has been spent on the upkeep of this playground for a very very long time, or it would not be in its current condition.

KCC Grant Funding:

KCCs grant funding is explicitly for either the REFURBISHMENT of an old playground or the CREATION of a new playground. It is not for demolition and rebuild. Nowhere does it state that the funding is for just one playground - in fact it could and should be used to improve multiple playgrounds.

No Section 106 funding:

TDC have confirmed that no Section 106 funding to improve local play areas has been collected from large scale developments. We would love to know the true detail of how much maintenance money is spent annually across all Thanet playgrounds, and where that money comes from.

We do not believe the playground has had any meaningful maintenance in the 12 years since it was built in 2009, using £300K in grant funding. Only £88K of that was paid to the original installers, the Children’s Playground Company. What was the rest used for?

RoSPA report:

The RoSPA report dated Nov 2021 states that the Viking Ship is now high risk, because none of the medium risk issues identified in Nov 2020 were addressed. This means that kids have apparently been playing on a dangerous structure for over a year, and definitely since last November.

However, none of this justifies demolition. 

RoSPA state in an email dated Dec 2021:

"Our report lists numerous faults with this unit, all of which can be repaired.  However, of course, it is up to the site owner to determine whether the costs of replacement are more effective for them than the costs of renovation or repair." 

It is therefore purely an arbitrary choice to demolish the playground rather than repair it, as recommended. It is definitely not the best use of a Covid recovery grant designed that is meant to improve lives. How many more people would benefit from the renovation of multiple playgrounds?

Play areas for older children:

Older children are woefully lacking play areas in Cliftonville. The new proposed play structures cater up to age 12 years old. The current structures cater to older kids. TDC have not yet explained this discrepancy in provision or their plans to provide a play area for older kids to replace the current one. The new structure is very similar to most other playgrounds, so children will lose the variety they currently love. 

Imaginative play:

Local families visit both Dane Park and the Viking Ship playgrounds and both hold equal importance in the lives of local kids. Imaginative play is extremely important for all children and none have been consulted prior to these decisions. The excuse is lack of time, but the grant funding has already been spent on equipment, and the demolition and installation could be halted until a better use for the equipment - for example its installation at Dane Park, is found. The ordered equipment is very similar in style to the equipment already in use at Dane Park, making it a far better recipient.

Planning Permission:

There is no planning permission for the playground - as a result we don't know much about what it will be replaced with, apart from the basic equipment, the fact that all greenery will be destroyed (in a Conservation Area) and the entire area paved over with resin hardstanding. TDC cite permitted development rights, however these stipulate that a planning application is required for any structures standing over 4 metres tall.


There is a covenant on this land which prohibits buildings anything that obstructs the view. TDC ignored the covenant in relation to height when the Viking Ship Playground was built, and took insurance out instead to cover themselves.

Destruction of wildlife habitat:

There was a huge uproar when shrubs were illegally destroyed by TDC at the Winter Gardens in 2019. At the time TDC made (false) promises that would never happen again. Yet a large area of shrubbery, containing nesting wrens and robins, was destroyed to erect fencing at the Viking Ship Playground. All other greenery on site is due to be removed, despite it being sited in a Conservation Area which affords protection for mature trees. It is an offence to intentionally destroy hedges that contain nesting birds and TDC have been reported to the wildlife police. It is imperative that no more greenery is destroyed as the birds have moved further into the shrubs on the playground site, where they have been filmed building new nests.


The playground is made of hardy ecologically friendly Robinia Wood, which has a projected life span of 30 years when maintained. It is just 12 years old. The playground originally cost £300K via grant funding, with TDC apparently financing a trip abroad for council employees to look at other examples of natural play areas. The equipment cost £68K and installation was £20K. We have no idea what the rest of that grant money was spent on - a whopping £212K remains unaccounted for. It is a unique bespoke design installed by award winning The Children's Playground Company. The original installers visited once in 2014 but were never employed to do any specialist upkeep or regular maintenance which would have ensured the playground stayed in much better repair. When the playground was first built it was used as a case study for Play England promoting natural play, and it received a 5-star RoSPA award. The proposed plastic and metal factory built substitute is a poor and thoughtless replacement on our heritage coastline.

Climate Emergency:

Despite the declaration of a Climate Emergency no sustainability assessment has been made for the new playground.

News embargo:

The news of closure was embargoed in order to quash complaints, giving residents no opportunity to protest beforehand, and thus giving the many children who love the Viking Ship zero opportunity to say goodbye to this much loved piece of play equipment. The timing, just before half term, was impeccable.

Sign the petition here:

Follow Friends of Cliftonville Coastline here:


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Update 2

Friends of Cliftonville Coastline

March 31, 2022

We are sad to report that the Viking Ship has been unlawfully demolished :(

It is with great sadness that we can report that Thanet District Council flattened the Viking Ship Playground within hours on Tuesday morning this week. Our lawyers had at the time been working on a response to a letter from the council’s lawyers, detailing why TDC’s assertion that no planning permission was required because the volume of the Viking Ship is under 50 cubic metres was wrong and it is therefore unlawful for them to demolish this much loved playground and rebuild something entirely different in its place, with no consultation of the community. 

As soon as we realised what was happening our solicitors sent an email to TDC asking for them to stop work immediately. TDC ignored this request and carried on regardless, demolishing a structure that was demonstrably in great condition.

The Viking Ship was dearly loved by a large sector of the community, in particular by many local children, and was easily fixable at a far lesser amount than demolition and rebuild, thereby leaving a large amount of KCC Covid grant funding over to renovate multiple other playgrounds in need. Demonstrating the feeling of anger that there was no consultation over these plans, nearly 800 people signed a petition to save the Viking Ship Playground and with thanks to 108 pledges from you, our trusted backers, we raised £2680 to fight the demolition of the Viking Ship Playground. The original installers quoted to repair the playground for just £27K. The playground will be replaced by a hugely expensive, unsightly, environmentally unfriendly Kompan installation.

Local councillors ignored and blocked residents who fought this campaign. Rather than look out for the community it appears that TDC once again cares nothing for the opinions of locals and planning laws designed to protect our community, and instead ploughs ahead with detrimental, costly and illegal plans.

FOCC will therefore be escalating this to the Local Government Ombudsman, on the grounds that Thanet District Council have failed to address the arguments made by our solicitors, which show that TDC is wrong in fact and law.

We will keep you updated as this progresses.

Many many thanks for your generous donations which have allowed us to challenge TDC thus far. We are hugely sorry we were not able to save the Viking Ship in time, and will continue to fight for justice for the local community over this sad loss. 

Update 1

Friends of Cliftonville Coastline

March 5, 2022

We've sent TDC a letter telling them that their actions are unlawful!

HUGE thanks for your support so far, we are 85% funded today, with just a few days to go to reach our funding goal of £2500. We could not have got this far without you.

In the hope that we will reach that goal we have already employed our lawyers to send a letter to Thanet District Council. They have sent that letter yesterday.

We must meet the goal in order to receive any of the funds. These funds will ensure we can pay our bill for the lawyers and progress this case to save our Viking Ship Playground and hold Thanet District Council to account as best we can. These are some of the ways you can help us reach our goal:

Email your friends and ask them to donate 

Share the Crowdjustice page on social media using the hashtag #saveourvikingship 

Donate again if are able

This is a community effort to save our Viking Ship Playground and every little bit is appreciated and counts.

From our press release:

Richard Buxton solicitors, who are experts in environmental and planning law, have investigated and found the proposed works to the Viking Ship Playground to be unlawful, with the councils assertions that the proposal falls within permitted development rights to be in error. 

It is therefore a criminal offence to carry out a demolition without the required planning permission. Furthermore, the position of the Viking Ship Playground within a Conservation Area with protected mature trees necessitates consent. Birds which have been viewed building nests on site are protected by law.

Our letter requests that Thanet District Council give a response to confirm they understand the situation within 7 days. Any commencement of works prior to a response, and without planning permission, may give rise to criminal liability on the part of the council, at which point an injunction may be sought in order to prevent works.

In order to make the most of KCC grant funding the new play equipment that has been bought in haste to replace the Viking Ship Playground should be immediately distributed across other playgrounds in the area that would greatly benefit from updated structures. £27K should be ring fenced for renovation by the original installers, The Children’s Playground Company, who would be able to make the Viking Ship safe for use again within a couple of days, enabling the playground to reopen safely as soon as possible.  

Please help us reach our Crowdfunding goal, so that we can progress this case and hold Thanet District Council accountable for ignoring planning law and conservation area protections in pursuit of a project that has failed to engage with the community as required. 

We must reach our goal of £2500 before the campaign closes on Monday 7th March, in order to receive the funds. Thanks to the pledges of nearly 90 supporters of between £5-£200 each we have very nearly hit our target of £2500. 

Huge thanks once more for all your support

Friends of Cliftonville Coastline

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