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Special needs fun day at Paultons Park scrapped over health and safety fears – Daily Echo

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A day out for children with special needs at a Hampshire tourist attraction has been scrapped because of health and safety fears.

Youngsters have been going to Paultons Park for 26 years as part of the national Rotary KidsOut Day.

But this year managers at the park in Ower have told schools across the region they are unable to accommodate them for their June trip.

Headteacher at Great Oaks School, Andy Evans, said: “It does seem a bit discriminatory. They wouldn’t be saying the same about a mainstream school. Our behaviour is always impeccable.

“And for many children it’s the only time in a year they can enjoy something like this.”

But Paultons Park managing director Richard Mancey said the company is “a very different place from ten years ago”.

He said: “Paulton’s Park has evolved from a bird garden and country park. We now have many complex rides operating at height.

“In 2009 we had 350 guests a day. We now have 3,500 a day and with 2,500 for the KidsOut Day on top that makes it a 6,000 day.

“When a school comes to Paultons they do a risk assessment but they’re asking us to assume the risk. We are uncomfortable doing that.

“We have to plan for the worst-case scenario on any day.

“We could have a power cut that could result in several hundred guests left at height and could involve harnesses to get them down.

“People react differently and children with learning difficulties react differently too – and they could be stuck there for a couple of hours.

“We have a duty of care to all our guests and our staff, and we are uncomfortable with this going forward.”

Mr Mancey said the park’s operations team had “agonised” for three years over the decision and added that the park has spent “thousands of pounds” making it accessible to disabled people, but that it’s the high volume of disabled customers in one day that makes the event prohibitive.

But the decision has angered some relatives.

Hadyn Cozens’ brother Lewis, 14, has autism, Asperger’s syndrome and dyspraxia, and the day out is a highlight of his school year.

But Haydn, 20, a foreman from Bitterne, said: “I don’t think Lewis would react any differently from anybody else if he was stuck at the top of a ride. It wouldn’t be a pleasant experience for anybody but I don’t think Lewis would be fazed.

“I think it’s a sorry excuse to say that a highly unlikely event should stop 2,500 kids from having one day of fun.”

The children will go to Marwell Zoo instead.

Source: Special needs fun day at Paultons Park scrapped over health and safety fears – Daily Echo