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'Noisy' garden for special needs kids is closed

By Clare Weir

A section of an activity garden in Londonderry used by children with special needs has been closed down after complaints by residents that it was too noisy.

Part of the "playtrail" off the Culmore Road - a sensory section made up of colourful, tactile and noise-emitting objects to stimulate young people - has been shut after a number of local people reported their complaints to Derry City Council.

Children from mainstream schools as well as from Foyleview and Belmont Special Schools use the garden - which closes at 5pm each evening.

Now the council's Environmental Services department is expected to investigate the complaints.

Michael Dobbins, the principal at Foyleview and chairman of the Liberty Consortium, which runs the playtrail, said he was "concerned" at the situation.

"We were contacted by council who said that three complaints were received, one about the four pieces of equipment in the garden and two about the noise of children playing, which were being treated as 'noise pollution', " he said.

"We want to work closely with Environmental Services and our neighbours to make sure this garden is not a nuisance to anyone.

"However, two of the complaints related to the noise of children playing.

"After a weekend when Derry pulled on its Santa suit and showed the world what a fun city this is, I would be worried when people perceive the sound of children's laughter to be noise pollution."

Parent, grandmother and childminder Bernadette Healy lives just five minutes from the playtrail.

"This is a disgrace," she said today.

"If these people lived near the Brandywell then would Derry City have to stop playing and shut up shop?

"Would the airport have to close if a tiny number of people complained about the noise?

"The children love the sensory garden and they are so sad that it is not open."

Her sister Geraldine Coyle invited the complainants to visit the garden themselves.

"I lived behind a nightclub for 15 years and I was on to the council every week about the noise, but in the end I had to move.

"You have taxi drivers blaring their horns at all hours of the day and night and my daughter lives on Strand Road listening to the boy racers driving up and down all night.

"She rings the police all the time about it. But I cannot believe the sound of happy children playing could offend anyone.

"This garden is educational. There are even herbs like lavender, there are sights, sounds and smells.

"The children from the special school benefit so much and so do all the other kids, it is educational, secure and therapeutic and we all look out for each other's kids.

"There is little enough facilities in this town for an important place like this to shut. I understand the council have a job to do and have to investogate, but I think whoever is complaining should actually come down to the garden and see the good it does," she said.

Childminder Karen Crossan added: "There are schools in the area too. If someone were to complain about the noise from the playground would they want the school to close?

"Weans will be weans, they make noise, but the park closes at 5pm anyway, so what harm is it doing?"

Belfast Telegraph


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