Council accused over skatepark 'promise'

Published on: 24 Feb 2017

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A FATHER who raised money for a skatepark in memory of his son who was tragically killed in an aircraft accident says the council has reneged on a promise to offer further facilities for young people.

Gordon Clapp, 74, is facing the tenth anniversary of his son Jamie's death this year after the light aircraft he was travelling in crashed into a field and burst into flames.

After Jamie's death on July 8, 2007, Mr Clapp threw all his might into fundraising £100,000 for a skatepark in his son's memory.

His dream was finally realised in April 2011 when the Jamie Clapp Memorial Skatepark in Emersons Green was opened.

But Mr Clapp, who lives in Mangotsfield, claims South Gloucestershire Council had promised to add a picnic area, BMX ramps and artificial grass verges around the site.

"We said we would raise £100,000 for a skateboard park - and we have done that," Mr Clapp said.

"The council said they would put artificial grass around the outside, put a picnic area behind, BMX ramps on the other side and install automatic lighting but all they've done is put in one piece of false grass near the front. At one point they even said they would probably put a little cafe in.

"It's now been 10 years since Jamie died and six years since we opened the park, and it's not been done."

Pilot Robert Gunter, 34, from Downend, invited Jamie for a ride in a light aircraft from a farm airfield near Clutton as a treat for his 14th birthday.

Although Mr Clapp did not want Jamie to do it, the teenager really wanted to go so he gave in.

The plane, which took off at a very steep angle, stalled between 200 and 250ft before it nosedived to the ground, bursting into flames and killing both Gunter and Jamie.

It was later revealed Gunter was an inexperienced pilot and had taken high levels of the drug ecstasy.

Mr Clapp was told the insurance company would not pay out because Gunter was under the influence of drugs and this had invalidated any claim.

Jamie, a student at Mangotsfield School, was passionate about skateboarding and his family and friends felt the park would be a fitting tribute.

Their fundraising campaign was boosted after Mr Clapp won just over £40,000 in the Big Lottery Fund's People's Millions contest after his project was voted for by ITV West viewers.

Mr Clapp said: "It will soon be 10 years since Jamie died and I miss him every day. I have a photo of him beside my bed and I kiss it every morning and every night. 

"There wasn't a person who didn't like Jamie. He was well thought of by his school and by his mates. I was a single parent for about four years and he was helpful to me all the time. We used to do car boot sales to raise money and were always together.

"I'm 74 now and not in the best of health so I want to get things sorted now so it is done properly in memory of Jamie.

"It's a nice skateboard park but it's being let go. I've contacted the council many, many times. Everything has been said verbally over the phone so I've not got anything in writing.  I was also in touch with the MP Chris Skidmore before Christmas but he hasn't got back to me.

"Every year, the council tells me 'We haven't got the funds, we'll do it next year'. But next year never comes. We kept our side of the deal now they need to keep their side of the bargain and do what they promised."

A South Gloucestershire Council spokesman said: “We have been in dialogue with Mr Clapp since the skatepark was originally constructed and have explained that we are unable to carry out any further improvements unless additional funding is secured. However, we are always looking to identify new funding opportunities to help improve community spaces in South Gloucestershire.

“Following discussions with Mr Clapp, we trialled installing artificial grass on one of the stone embankments, however as it was purely aesthetic and did not offer any safety enhancements, this did not prove to be cost effective."

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