Health and safety blows whistle on kids’ goalposts

OFFSIDE ... Joel Smith with friends whose goalposts in Erskine Road look set to be removed.
OFFSIDE ... Joel Smith with friends whose goalposts in Erskine Road look set to be removed.

AN angry dad has accused council chiefs of scoring an own goal for ruling a youngsters’ football pitch is a a potential health and safety hazard.

Builder Derek Smith put up wooden goalposts on the field near Erskine Road, South Shields, over a month ago to give children a safe area to play.

But now he has been told the goal-posts may have to be moved – after they were deemed unsuitable by South Tyneside Council.

The council says that as the wooden posts have been permanently placed on the field it will have to inspect them – to check their suitability and if they meet safety standards – before deciding if they have to be taken down.

Mr Smith, who has two children, Joel, eight and Eva, two, says the alternative of youngsters playing in the street, near busy traffic, is far more dangerous. The 44-year-old said: “I am a builder myself, and I supplied the goalposts made out of wood.

“The council seems to have been hell bent on being disruptive.

“There are poppies that have been planted in the area but we play away from there.

“From goalpost to goalpost, the area we play in is only about 15 metres.

“I was told by the council that health and safety staff would have to investigate the goalposts.

“I have been told the goalposts will be coming down.

“My argument is that this deprives children of a safe play area. Otherwise, they would have to play on the road or go to Bents Park, which is about a mile away.

“Why should they have to when this area is here?

“At the last game of football we played, we had 25 children there, mostly between 6 and 11, and I was in goal.

“All the parents get involved to help supervise. It is also an area where the children can just hang out and play other games.

“It is stupidity that the council is doing this.”

A council spokesman said: “At the request of local residents, who wanted some recreational space for children to play, a small section of long grass was cut back in this area earlier this year.

“This also included a small section of poppies near to a pedestrian crossing point, which otherwise would have been at risk of being damaged once they had established themselves.

“However, some goalposts have been fixed into the ground.

“It would appear that these goalposts are not set out and then removed daily by the children as they play, and look to be more of a permanent fitting, which is not considered to be suitable in this area.

“We are working to strike a balance between the needs of local residents and the growth of the wildflowers.

“We are working with local residents to try to resolve this issue.”