A Mum is suing Stockport Council for failing to maintain safety standards at a park where her five-year-old daughter fell from a 30-year-old slide – onto solid surfacing – fracturing her skull.
Ella Reger lost her balance and fell from the top of the two-metre high slide at Clarendon Road Park, in Hazel Grove, in September 2012.
Her mother, Rebecca Farndell, campaigned for the park to be made safe afterwards, launching legal action through Neil Hudgell Solicitors.
Now, a damning report, produced by an independent playground safety expert as part of the case, has revealed how council officials repeatedly ignored warnings to make improvements to both the park and the slide from which Ella fell and suffered her injury.
The report concluded that the Ella was not at fault in any way for her fall and had been using the equipment properly.
It has also revealed that:
- Annual safety reports, which recommended the installation of impact absorbing surfacing on the park, were ignored from 2008 onwards.
- An inspector warned that hand-rails and barriers on the slide were too low and did not meet new regulations, stating that it posed a ‘high risk’ in 2009, recommending a ‘safer surface’ also be provided around it.
- Had impact-absorbing surfacing been installed prior to Ella’s accident, it would have been very likely to have reduced the severity of her injuries.
In his report, the independent consultant and expert witness said: “Stockport Council knew that the slide and its surfacing did not meet requirements, and although standard compliance was not requisite, they had been provided with information that these failures represented a significant risk.
“This risk should have been reduced by the adaptation of the rails and / or the laying of IAS (impact absorbing surfacing), or more easily by the removal and replacement of the item.”
The subsequent investigation around the matter led to play equipment being removed from 16 parks and play areas across Stockport.
Council officials recently announced that £280,000 could now be pledged to provide new play areas across the borough.
Having seen the conclusions of the report into the playground’s safety, Miss Farndell is now hoping people understand her actions, revealing that Ella, now seven, still suffers from headaches to this day, and has also been experiencing some behavioral problems as a result.
“It’s easy for parents to be critical because for some, the loss of the playgrounds has made it harder for them over the summer, but I know for a fact that if what happened to Ella had happened to their children, they would think differently,” Rebecca said.
“She fell from the top of a two-metre high slide onto the hard tarmac. She could easily have been dead, and when she fell, I thought she would be. It was horrendous, she was slipping in and out of consciousness and was in a really bad way. If you ask me how bad it was on a scale of 1-100, I’d say 1,000.
“People have criticised me for my campaign, but this report shows council officials were saving pennies and risking our children’s health. It’s not my fault the parks have gone. They should have been maintained and kept safe at all times.
“I’ve led a campaign to raise money for a new local park myself, and that is due to open soon as we have raised £11,800. At least we know that will be safe. It’s too late for Ella though. It has changed her personality, she gets upset very easily and has become quite aggressive at times.”
Nicola Bailey-Gibb is the solicitor handling the case at Neil Hudgell Solicitors, claiming damages on behalf of Ella for the failure to install impact absorbing surfacing, the failure to make the slide safe with higher guard rails and for exposing Ella to the risk of significant injuries.
“Quite simply, the local council allowed children to continue playing on a playground which they had been warned was unsafe for a number of years,” said Mrs Bailey-Gibbs.
“Despite recommendations to install the softer surfacing from as early as 2008, and a campaign by local residents, it took a nasty fall by this young girl to force the council into any form of action.”