Health and safety move to relocate school treehouse blasted as barking mad

Tynewater pupils at their treehouse opening at Wooplaw Woodland
Tynewater pupils at their treehouse opening at Wooplaw Woodland
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PUPILS who spent six months building a treehouse for their schoolyard will have to travel to the Borders to play on it thanks to health and safety rules.

The children, from Tyne-
water Primary in Pathhead, built the den for their own playground but Midlothian Council’s health and safety demands forced the group behind the project to install it 20 miles away in woodland between Lauder and Galashiels.

Former MSP Robin Harper joins the Tynewater pupils at their treehouse opening at Wooplaw Woodland

Former MSP Robin Harper joins the Tynewater pupils at their treehouse opening at Wooplaw Woodland

Gorebridge Community Development Trust director and project architect Gail Halvorsen said the council’s fears over safety and public liability had made the original plan “unworkable” and the “den in the sky” was recently unveiled at Wooplaw Community Woodland.

She said the council’s demands were “getting silly” as they wanted the timber to have rounded edges, were concerned about fingers getting trapped in the door and asked for a window to be added to prevent bullying in the den.

“I’m very angry about the council leading us up the garden path like that. We approached the council and they were enthusiastic, but either their enthusiasm waned or they didn’t think about it properly.

“An independent expert checked the design over and he thought it was fine, but it seemed no-one wanted to take responsibility because it wasn’t a piece of standard playgroup equipment.

“To me it just seemed unreasonable – the council was 
asking for things that were more onerous than if you were constructing a building. But once the children realised they could still use the treehouse they became much more positive – they will be able to visit with their families at weekends and during the summer holidays, which they wouldn’t have been able to if it was in the playground.”

Parent Dee McEwan, who is on Tynewater Primary School Parent Council and has a daughter Rebecca, ten, said: “It is pretty awful to have something that the children have worked so hard on moved so they will need to rely on parent transport to be able to see it.

“Personally, in certain ways health and safety has gone mad – where the treehouse is now, children will be completely unsupervised.”

The project was overseen by Gorebridge Community Development Trust, which was awarded £5000 by the Forestry Commission to run a project celebrating the Year of the Forest.

The group chose to run wood workshops with primary schools, with the object of building a timber structure in their playgrounds.

A Midlothian Council spokesman said the local authority did not “wrap children up in cotton wool”.

“Regrettably, it wasn’t possible to construct the final version of the treehouse within the school grounds as we have a legal duty to comply with UK regulations on school playground equipment,” he said.