‘Crazy and unreasonable!’ Fury as barrier stops children playing football in park

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Aggrieved residents say children have been using the space for 35 years. A feud with neighbours over complaints about the game at one point became so heated police had to be called.

Children have been playing football in one corner of the park in Cullompton, Devon after a local painted a goal onto the side of their garage, which backs onto the clearing.

However, after the council received complaints that ball games were being played in the park from neighbours, a diagonal wooden barrier was placed across the makeshift goal.

This makes it virtually impossible for children to play football there.

One local described the change as “a bit crazy and very unreasonable”.

The council said the play area on Headweir Road had been marked as a no-ball games area “for some time”.

It added it had a “duty” to ensure activities in the park were not causing a “nuisance”.

Brian Reeby, who painted the goal, said problems started when a small number of people living near to the park started to complain.

He said that at one point the police had to be called to the scene to resolve the conflict.

Mr Reeby said: “I painted that goal on my garage about 35 years ago for my son.

“I painted the goal so they would kick the ball in the corner of the park instead of near the road where they could damage cars and pick them up in the road.

“The goal has been there ever since, and people have loved it.”

The park is now going to be turned into “a site for wildlife and habitat creation”, the council said.

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Neighbour Barbara Gozna said: “Some of the neighbours don’t like balls being kicked over to their garden and children apparently looking into their property, but it’s the same for all residents living along here.

“These houses have been there for 30 odd years. My dad has lived in the end one for 20 plus years, and he’s never had any problems.

“If they kick the ball over into the garden, you just kick it back.”

Another local, Ryan Howarth, commented: “If I were the kids right now, I’d still be playing football right there and doing it a lot more.

“I think it’s a bit crazy and very unreasonable because if you can’t allow kids to play football in a park for kids, there’s something wrong.”

In a joint statement, Mid Devon District Council (MDDC) and Cullompton Town Council said: “Headweir Road play area is land owned by MDDC and run as a play area by Cullompton Town Council.

“While we appreciate that the gesture to repaint a goal on the garage wall facing into the play area has been carried out in good faith, this area has been marked as a no-ball games area and has been for some time following previous concerns.

“Both councils have a duty to ensure that activities taking place in a play area do not cause a nuisance to residents of nearby properties and to ensure no damage is done to premises or neighbouring properties.”

It added: “The town and district councils are keen to work together with residents to ensure both children, who wish to play ball games, and other residents have their views taken into account and have facilities nearby which they can freely use.

“There is a park around 500m away from Headweir Road accessed via Fairfax Drive, and an additional one around 1km away and which is more suitable for football games at Upcott Fields St Andrews Estate.

“The town council has started planting shrubs in Headweir Road, so this area can become a site for wildlife and habitat creation.

“Both councils have to balance the needs of everyone in the community, and we understand this can cause upset on occasions and that sometimes disputes do occur.”

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