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The Wendy house you'll need a mortgage to buy; Two slides, three swings . . . and a pounds 22, 000 price tag.

Byline: Rachel Newton

IT IS the gift for the child with everything - and the parent with a big bank balance. This playground paradise, complete with a pounds 22, 000 price tag, is thought to be Britain's most expensive Wendy house.

But the cost has not reduced demand: one customer has just snapped up the playhouse from Sarah Soos, owner of the Cheshire based Rainbow Play Systems.

For that, they now have a Wendy house made from Californian red-wood which features four separate annexes, two slides, a chute, three swings, and a number of rope ladders. Sarah sells some of the most expensive playhouses money can buy, with prices starting at pounds 1, 000 and rising to whatever the customer wishes to pay.

Although the buyer of the play-house wishes to remain anonymous, Sarah reveals they also spent several thousands of pounds on landscaping work to accommodate the sprawling structure.

Some of Sarah's customers are so high profile she has been required to sign gagging clauses preventing her from revealing details of their expensive toys. But it is understood famous footballers are among her best known clients. However the former model insists not all her customers are wealthy or celebrities. ``Yes, we do have famous clients, but many people who buy from us are ordinary families, '' she said. ''Parents realise it is probably the best money they can spend on their child.

``The playhouses give hours of fun and exercise in the fresh air in a totally safe environment. Parents always know where their children are and the playhouses last until they are grown up. In a world where computers and the TV rule it is a welcome return to old fashioned childhood pursuits. ''

As the only outlet outside the South East of England selling the playhouses, customers have travelled from as far as Scotland and Wales to Sarah's premises in Nether Alderley. The structures are durable enough to withstand an adult's weight and the larger designs can accommodate as many as 30 adults at one time. ``People's reactions are always the same, they are amazed. Our play-houses are quite simply in a different league to anything they have seen before, '' said Sarah. ``The typical remark I hear from parents is `I would have loved one of those when I was a child', so of course they want to give their child that enjoyment instead. ``One lady told me she had even gone without a car to buy one for her children. ''

Sarah, who lives in Macclesfield, set up the Rainbow Play Systems outlet after becoming disillusioned with her job on the Chanel cosmetics counter at Manchester Airport. The play-houses, which are designed purely for the home market, are made in America of Californian redwood and shipped over in containers from South Dakota. In the few months Sarah has been in business, sales have steadily grown and the average customer spends pounds 6, 000. ``I think the success of the business is a sign of the times we live in. ``Nowadays it is not always easy to visit the park and a playhouse provides the same fun and exercise, and it is something the whole family can enjoy. People will happily spend pounds 1, 000 or pounds 2, 000 on a computer for their children. You could spend the same amount on a playhouse which will last 12 years. ''

A BROTHER and sister were celebrating after hearing their prized Wendy house survived the scrutiny of a council planning meeting. Eight-year-old Ben Goodwill and his sister, Katie, six, had been devastated to hear that their playhouse may have to be pulled down because it was an ``unauthorised development''.

They collected more than 100 signatures on a petition urging their council to reconsider. And last night their mother, Julie Goodwill, said the pair were ``over the moon'' after hearing the 6ft high and 4ft wide Wendy house could stay at their home in Barnoldswick, Lancashire.

CAPTION(S):

CHILD'S FANTASY: Costing pounds 22, 000, this amazing structure, sold by Sarah Soos, right, is thought to be Britain's most expensive Wendy house Picture: CLIFF BRETT
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 8, 2003
Words:680
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