Rocco joins Esther to open new play area

Little Diggers playground is opened at Mereside & Clifton Children's Centre by Esther Rantzen.  She is pictured with Rocco Everett, aged 3.
Little Diggers playground is opened at Mereside & Clifton Children's Centre by Esther Rantzen. She is pictured with Rocco Everett, aged 3.
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Little Rocco Everett could not wait to join his pals in a new playground - but first he had the grown-up task of officially opening it.

Three-year-old Rocco was joined by television presenter Esther Rantzen to cut the ribbon at the early years play zone at Mereside Children’s Centre.

He earned the honour after his suggestion of ‘Little Diggers’ won a competition to name the £40,000 park.

It is the latest playground to open as part of a £1.6m investment in play facilities across Blackpool by Blackpool Better Start.

Ms Rantzen, who is a trustee of children’s charity the NSPCC which is spearheading the Better Start project, said: “Looking around at this lovely playground and seeing children having a fantastic time, it really demonstrates that Blackpool values the children here and that the children are important, which they must be.

“It is somewhere that mums and dads and children can play and have fun together.”

Ms Rantzen, who also founded Childline, added: “A mum was saying to me, what a difference the playground has made to her life.

“We evolved our children to be close to nature, playing in wood and sand and grass, and when you look at this playground there are no concrete or hard surfaces.

“It feels like a place designed to create happy children, and that’s perfect.”

Parents helped design the playground on Langdale Road.

Rocco’s mum Ashleigh, who lives on Mereside with her partner Daniel as well as daughter Mayzee-Leigh, said: “Rocco was really pleased when he was chosen to open the park.

“We have all had input into choosing the play equipment, and it’s brought everyone closer as well as meaning there is a lovely place for the children to play.

“If after school we want to bring the kids here, it can be opened up so they can all play.

Better Start is a £45m 10-year project aimed at improving outcomes for pre-school children living in Blackpool’s most deprived areas.

Studies show the environment used for play has different cognitive, social and motor developmental impacts on children.

Merle Davies, director of the Centre for Early Child Development, said: “We’re delighted to be opening the new play zone at Mereside, and we hope local families enjoy this fabulous new resource and benefit from the facilities.

“It’s a pleasure to see the ideas formulated by our parents can transform local spaces into an asset for the community, which in turn will help Blackpool to be a place in which families raise happy, healthy children.”

Diane Booth, director of Children’s Services at Blackpool Council, added: “This investment in our children’s centres is vital to helping children develop socially and emotionally as they grow up.

“As well as providing a benefit to the young children who will use the play zone, the parents have also benefitted, both from having their say in the community consultation and from the support that our children’s centres give to mums and dads during the early stages of children’s lives.”

Read more about investment in Blackpool’s parks