NOT WELCOME: Children from Startforth Park have been told they may not enter the play park on the neighbouring Grangefields estate
NOT WELCOME: Children from Startforth Park have been told they may not enter the play park on the neighbouring Grangefields estate

A MEETING to build “community harmony” will be organised after tensions escalated following the erection of signs that “segregate children” at an open space play area in a dale village.

Tempers flared after signs were erected at a children’s open space area at the recently completed Taylor Wimpey Grangefields Estate, in Startforth. The signs, which appeared late last week, state the area is “private” and “for the use of Grangefields residents only”.

Alan Petty, 38, a lifelong resident of neighbouring Startforth Park, said he was “disgusted” when he saw the signs on the play area and posted photographs on his social media page.

He said: “That bit of grass was originally the playing field at Startforth Park. Taylor Wimpey built on the land and promised to keep an area that could still be used as a playing field by the children.

"Turns out you can now only use that field if you are a Grangefields resident’s child. Everyone else is not welcome and Taylor Wimpey find it acceptable to segregate children.”

Mr Petty added: “I didn’t want to be a keyboard warrior, but I just thought people should know what is going on. What do they expect children to do now?

“It was supposed to be a play area for all of the community.”

A spokesperson for Taylor Wimpey told the Teesdale Mercury they had not installed the signage and couldn’t comment further on the situation.

It is believed the signs were erected by property management company, Kingston Property Services, who maintain the space on behalf of developer Taylor Wimpey.

Other residents of Startforth Park reacted angrily at the news of the signs saying it was “utterly ridiculous”, “disgraceful” and “disgusting”.

One resident unhappy with the new signs added blank tape to them writing “everybody welcome” shortly after their installation.

However it had been removed by a Grangefield resident by morning.

Diane Petty, whose Startforth Park property faces on to the new estate and play area, said: “I think it’s disgusting. It was a community area for the children before the houses were built.”

Another resident Laura Carrick added: “When the development was proposed and they wanted people on side they were all for “one community” - what a load of rubbish. They were quick to demolish and build on the green space that the kids had beforehand, which was open to all, with the promise that our kids could have access to this. Yet more lies from greedy developers who only care about themselves and their pockets.”

The play area at Grangefields has yet to be adopted by Durham County Council currently Grangefields resident pay for the upkeep.

Grangefields resident Lindsay Monaghan said she pays £180 a year to the maintenance company for the upkeep of the space but said she had no issue with any children using the space.

She added: “It’s safer for the little ones to play in an enclosed space than on the roads in the estate. Although I’m not sure anyone would want to use it as the maintenance company don’t even pickup the grass cuttings.”

Fellow Grangefields resident, Steven Hugill, said: “I find the whole thing extremely short-sighted. As far as I’m concerned the open space existed long before the houses and should remain an area for local people, Startforth Park residents included, to use. I fail to see the rationale of this. In my opinion all it is doing is creating a divide.

“Yes, we do pay a maintenance fee for the upkeep of the area, but, in my opinion, that shouldn't matter. The grass was there before the estate, and should remain a place for youngsters to play.”

Cllr Pat Estall, chairman of Startforth Parish Council, said: “I intend to call a meeting between the two estates and see how to get everyone together and we don’t have this situation.