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The organiser of the popular Party at the Rec community event says he will try to revive it for 2018 after cancelling it this year. Michael Fox says a decision by Gillingham Town Council stopping them from holding it on the recreation ground at Hardings Park this summer left organisers with little choice but to scrap the 2017 fundraising party.

The council says it took the decision last October because it did not want to put at risk the newly-installed play area and skate park on the site which had been installed at the cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

There have since been suggestions that other organisations in the town, including Gillingham Town football club and North Dorset RFC, could host Party at the Rec on their grounds. But Michael Fox insists that these offers came too late to save the 2017 event. ‘Unfortunately it’s too late notice for us, we will not be able to put anything together.’ A petition has now been set up in a bid to persuade the council to change its mind and allow the party to go ahead on the recreation ground in 2018. Michael Fox says that so far ‘500 to 600’ names have been gathered and it will be presented to councillors soon.

In any case Fox says he is determined that Party at the Rec, which was started back in 2012, will continue. ‘Hopefully we will be back in 2018 – even if the council says no to the Rec we’ll try and find another venue.’

Mayor of Gillingham Barry Von Clemens said that it was sad the popular gathering would not be taking place. He said councillors on the town’s general purposes committee had reluctantly decided last October 3 that its investment of public money at the recreation ground could not be risked. ‘We spent over £300,000 to put in fabulous play equipment. Unfortunately for any organisation wanting to hold an event at the Rec, we have to make sure that public money is protected,’ he said. ‘If you can imagine the damage a lorry would do to a footpath, we can’t risk it damaging our skate park or play area. That would cost thousands of pounds to repair or replace.’

Other reasons for stopping the event included the fact that the event could prevent youngsters from enjoying the new expensive play facilities over two days in summer. ‘In the past the police have requested a cordon around the skate park and play equipment during Party at the Rec,’ said the mayor. ‘We do not want to do this for a whole weekend of the summer when a lot of money and time has been invested to give young people these facilities to enjoy.’

Michael Fox said: ‘We feel frustrated. When we originally started there was never any mention that one day we wouldn’t be allowed on the Rec.’

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