Protesters demand worker is kept at Portsmouth adventure playground

FURIOUS families held a last-ditch protest in a bid to save a much-loved play worker.

Thursday, 18th August 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 4:55 pm
Protesters at Portsea Adventure Playground Picture: Ben Fishwick

Mothers and youngsters gathered outside Portsea Adventure Playground demanding that deputy manager Michelle Appleton, who has worked there for about 12 years, stays in place.

Portsmouth City Council is set to move her and other staff between the city’s other five adventure playgrounds.

Mum-of-two Amy Philips, 31, of Queen Street, Portsea, was one of the organisers.

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She said: ‘They’re all happy where they are so why play with it when it’s all fine?

‘She knows a lot of the kids, we’re afraid if she leaves then it’s going to go to pot.

‘She does a lot and has done a lot for them and we want to show her support. It’s like everyone we get here, they train them up and leave.’

Amy said they tried to attend a meeting on Monday but were not allowed in. The council says parents protesting in the corridor were told they could come back later.

‘They didn’t want to listen to the kids and that’s what this is about,’ Amy added.

Amy’s son Jack Betts, 11, added: ‘She won’t be here and no-one will play with us.’

The protesters gathered at about 3pm yesterday.

Staff had shut the site ‘due to the protest’, which provoked further anger.

The council said it did so to ‘ensure the safety’ of children and that it is important children ‘are never affected by adult issues’.

Protesters were chanting ‘listen to the kids’ and ‘we love Michelle’ at the playground in Aylward Street, Portsea.

Mum-of-two Sarah Sinden, 32, of North Street, said: ‘She means a lot to us.

‘She does an awful lot with the children, they’re not happy that she’s going.

‘She’s been here years, they’re gutted that she’s going.’

Rob Neale, communities co-ordinator for the council, said the changes will make the service sustainable.

He said: ‘Our play service staff naturally build bonds with the children they look after, just as pupils do with their teachers in school, but obviously over time both teachers and play staff can and must change.’

He added: ‘By moving cover around we can ensure the wider staff also build relationships with the children across our sites.’