'A total waste of money': Derby park attraction left 'rusting away' for years

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Council chiefs have described the situation as ‘disappointing’

A high ropes course at a Derby park - which a councillor previously described as a “fantastic” attraction - has not been open for a single day in nearly four years, it has emerged.

Skyline at Markeaton Park has been shut since October 2019 - in what a concerned parent has described as an “absolute waste of money”.

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Derby City Council called the closure “disappointing” and said it was still trying to find a “suitable operator” for the course.

Derbyshire County Council operated the attraction before its closure.

John Atkin, a parent who often uses Markeaton Park, told DerbyWorld he used the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act to ask the city council questions about Skyline.

Mr Atkin said: “Skyline was a joint venture between the city and county councils. It closed for almost a year from 2017-18 following vandalism, then was 'improved' and reopened.

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“I asked Derby City Council how much Skyline has been used since it was relaunched. Obviously Covid intervened but it has now been rusting away unused for approaching four years - the FoI response shows it hasn’t been open for a single day (since October 2019).

Derby City Council's response to John Atkin about SkylineDerby City Council's response to John Atkin about Skyline
Derby City Council's response to John Atkin about Skyline

“I seem to recall this being one of the supposed attractions that was meant to make up for removing the much-loved miniature train which had run in the park for years.

“What an absolute waste of money."

DerbyWorld asked Derby City Council and Derbyshire County Council to respond to these concerns.

A Derby City Council spokesperson said: “Markeaton Park is Derby’s most visited park and is one of the most popular attractions in the East Midlands with plenty to occupy visitors of all ages. It is disappointing that we haven’t been able to reopen the Skyline high ropes course at Markeaton Park after the Covid pandemic.

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“This has been due to a number of factors, including identifying a suitable operator. We are actively exploring sustainable options so that the park can be enjoyed by families for many years to come.”

Skyline at Markeaton ParkSkyline at Markeaton Park
Skyline at Markeaton Park

A Derbyshire County Council spokesperson added: “The Skyline was a joint initiative between the county council and the city council and was reopened in 2018-19 following significant improvements. It operated successfully throughout 2019 until it closed for the season in October, with plans for it to be reopened as normal in spring 2020. Following the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020, we assessed whether we could operate Skyline in line with Government advice and found the cost of procuring the equipment needed to open safely was unfortunately not feasible.

“As a result we redeployed staff to support vulnerable children in our repurposed residential accommodation and to support NHS colleagues at local testing centres. We also redistributed equipment to other sites.

“In 2021 we reviewed the decision to reopen the site following the pandemic. Based on a range of factors and emerging priorities, the decision was made to focus on delivering outdoor education and activities through school programmes and not continue with the operation of this project.”

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What we were told in 2018

In a press release in October 2018 about Skyline’s reopening, Derby Parks said there were “high hopes” for the attraction.

The press release said Derbyshire County Council would operate the course “in partnership with Derby City Council, which owns the facility”.

“The county council’s decision to approve the move has paved the way for the authority to open the course to the public in a three-year agreement with city council colleagues,” it added.

The press release included quotes from two councillors - Alan Grimadell, of Derby City Council, and Alex Dale, of Derbyshire County Council.

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Councillor Grimadell said at the time: “This is a fantastic facility in a fabulous park. It’s great to have a very experienced and capable operator on board to run the Skyline course. Getting the course reopened will drive Markeaton Park’s continued success as a leisure destination.”

Cllr Dale added: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity for our outdoor education service to offer its expertise in providing an adventurous activity and bringing its commercial know-how to provide an attraction which will be enjoyed by the many thousands of people who visit Markeaton Park every year.

“We have a business plan in place which we’re confident will provide a successful future for this exciting facility which will appeal to people of all ages and provide everything from family fun to corporate team-building activities.

“Skyline will help promote health and physical activity but, just as importantly, it’s fun and we very much hope it will prove a real hit with visitors.

“It’s ideally placed for visitors, families and school groups from across Derbyshire and Derby to visit, not to mention the thousands of students from the nearby University of Derby campus.”

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