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Councillor's plea as park closes its doors.

Byline: Will Sutton

Youngsters will have nowhere to go except back on the streets this week after a Teesside Skate Park closed down.

Thornaby's APE Skate Park has shut due to running costs and competition from smaller parks in the area with the loss of five jobs.

The park, with its 27,000 square feet of ramps, rails and jumps, will now be closed and liquidators will take the equipment away to be sold.

Regularly used by hundreds of skaters, roller-bladers and BMX-riders, the closure of the park on Martinet Road has left young skaters with few options.

A spokesman for the skate park, said: "The kids have stopped coming because they think there are going to be other parks opening.

"The council promise these things but they've just been talking about it for months.

"They have opened small outdoor parks in places like Thirsk and Richmond but these have just fragmented the sport.

"They are only the size of a tennis court and kids soon get bored of this.

"Other gangs of youths come and smash bottles and intimidate them - at least here the skating is supervised."

High insurance costs and falling numbers have led to the closure which used to see around 60 skaters on week nights and more than 200 at weekends.

Stockton Lib Dem Cllr Suzanne Fletcher, who has campaigned for skateboarding facilities in the past, said: "This makes it increasingly urgent the council gets something set up for young people throughout the borough.

"In an ideal world it would be great to have both mobile and permanent skate parks but this is not an ideal world.

"The advantage of the mobile skate parks is that they cannot be vandalised."

The APE park opened in 1999 and has been threatened with closure before when, in December 2002, it closed for two and a half weeks due to sharp rises in insurance costs.

A new insurer was found and the park saved but this time APE has not been able to escape closure.

A spokesman for Stockton Council said: "We are aware there is a need for skateboard facilities within the borough.

"We will be holding a number of taster sessions over the Easter Holidays with a mobile skate park to gauge the level of demand."

The mobile skate park will be available from 12noon till 5pm on three dates during Easter.

Today it will be at Stockton's Sport Centre car park, in Stockton High Street on Thursday and outside Splash on Friday.

The APE spokesman said: "The problem with the mobile parks is that they are not robust enough and cost a fortune. The council would be better off busing the kids to the permanent parks."
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Title Annotation:News Local
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Apr 14, 2004
Words:450
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