The Kinderland Controversy

In the early 1980s, Dudley Wallis – former owner of the Wallis Holiday Camp at Cayton Bay – proposed a new attraction for children in Scarborough.

Kinderland was to be an adventure playground for youngsters, and plans were made to transform local allotments on Burniston Road into a thrilling play area for tourists and locals alike. However, for those who lived in the nearby area, the North Side’s status as a peaceful residential location, was under threat.

A protest group, consisting of local residents, and led by Major Ron Soper, objected strongly to proposals concerning both Kinderland and the new water slides at the North Bay Bathing Pool – part of a larger scale development that would transform the venue into Waterscene later that year (subsequently known as Water Splash World and then, in 1995, Atlantis). Protestors were concerned about noise levels, and the effect that the attraction would have on the area.

Above: Waterscene’s slides were impressive, but not everyone welcomed them (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

In spite of these concerns, a leaflet campaign (around 2000 were distributed locally) and a petition to stop Kinderland being built, Scarborough Council approved the proposal and granted permission for the development of the site. Construction began in October, 1984. C. B. Booth Ltd was the Beverley-based contractor overseeing the work, and a Leeds firm known as Architectural Design Partnership designed the park.


Above: Kinderland was designed to facilitate old-fashioned outdoor play and games (from the author’s collection)

Accepting that Kinderland would be built regardless, local objectors, later known as the North Side Action Group, turned their attention towards other matters. Firstly they sought out an old statute (the Sunday Entertainments Act of 1932), to prevent the proposed park from opening on a Sunday. In doing so they hoped to secure some peace and quiet from the anticipated noise and commotion that Kinderland was predicted to attract. However, subsequent amendments to these regulations allowed the park to remain open all weekend; indeed, times were changing and many businesses had flouted the act for years.

Undeterred, objectors turned their attention to the size and proposed placement of attraction signs – namely those marking the two entrances on Burniston Road, and one opposite the boating lake and water chute in Northstead Manor Gardens. Chairman of the action group, Leslie Binns, made the following statement to the Scarborough Evening News in 1985:

We have written to the council objecting to the plans. We think these three signs are absolutely staggering. They will be totally out of place both in the area and in the gardens which are there for both residents and visitors alike to enjoy.

(Scarborough Evening News, 1 May 1985)

It is easy to see both sides of this argument in retrospect. On one hand, Dudley Wallis wanted to create a play area for old-fashioned fun – climbing frames and real physical play away from the slot machines and noise of the newer attractions on the South Bay. Local residents wanted a quiet place to live and were worried about the impact of yet another North Bay attraction on their doorstep. They were frustrated and felt ignored by the council, who, along with Wallis and those supporting the development appeared to have little regard for public opinion on the matter. It is understandable that they would feel compelled to voice their concerns by protesting.

Above: Kinderland advert from the early days of the attraction (Stories From Scarborough Image Archive)

Nonetheless, Wallis still hoped to create an attraction for Scarborough that would be loved by both tourists and locals. It has certainly left a legacy of memories, and it is touching to know that local residents campaigned to save it in 2001. Sadly, just as the campaign to prevent its creation ultimately failed, so too did the fight to keep it. Kinderland closed in 2007 and the site now lies dormant – a barren wasteland like the former Marvel’s site, which occupies the hill at the other side of Northstead Manor Gardens.

Now it is newer designs and planning proposals that attract disapproval and concern, as Scarborough continues to juggle its dual role as both a tourist destination and as a place to live and work. The question, as always, remains – who has the right to decide what is best for a seaside town such as Scarborough? Tourism boosts the local economy, but which types of attraction are truly best for Scarborough as a whole?  Is it possible to satisfy visitors and locals in equal measure?


The information above is based on articles in the Scarborough News (1983 – 1986), viewed in the Scarborough Room at Scarborough Library.


The Kinderland Protest

On February 23rd, 2003, hundreds of parents and children attended a march to protest against the proposed closure of Kinderland – Scarborough’s treasured attraction for children.


Above: Kinderland promotional material (source)

Marketed as a ‘fun, play and activity park’, Kinderland opened in 1985 and had welcomed thousands of children over the years. You can read more about it here and see pictures here.


Above: One of the play areas at Kinderland (from the author’s personal collection)

By 2003, following a brief closure in 2001 and years of financial difficulties, Kinderland was sought after by developers Benchmark for the proposed North Bay Project, and  Scarborough Council were considering offering the lease.

The Sands

Above: One of the many proposal plans for the North Bay area (source)

Concerned at the prospect of losing Kinderland, local lady Norma Fedorowycz set about organising a petition and protest, eager to preserve the area for future generations of children. The (then) 67-year old, assisted by son Neil, managed to accrue 800 signatures within a matter of hours, and a website – Scarborough For Kids – was set up detailing the campaign. Unfortunately the site has long since been taken down.


Above: Kinderland frisbee (from the author’s personal collection)

Following plans made in early February, by the day of the march (on Feburary 23rd, 2003), the petition had over 1000 signatures and counting. Evidently Kinderland was held in high regard by local people.

Whilst acknowledging the possibility of redevelopment, the campaign emphasised that any future use of the Kinderland site should ideally provide a clean, safe and supervised area for children to play – affordable family-friendly entertainment. With the loss of popular attractions such as Marvel’s, Millennium, Atlantis and the pirate-themed trips along the Mere, Scarborough’s reputation as a family (and child) friendly resort was under threat.

The march was reportedly a well attended event.

Outside the Kinderland site on Burniston Road, children and parents sported handmade signs and chanted ‘Save Kinderland’ to the accompaniment of supporting hoots from passing motorists. One lady came all the way from Lancashire to support the march. Protestors proceeded from the park to the Corner, where, according The Scarborough News, supporters were to be rewarded with free ice cream and a magic show.

Corner Cafe

Above: The Corner Cafe, where the march ended – the cafe was demolished in 2007 to make way for flats (source)

Over ten years later, the site remains empty, although is reportedly still earmarked for development, as part of The Sands project.

On one hand it is very sad that Kinderland has been lost – it was popular with tourists and locals; a beloved part of Scarborough’s recent history, and yet its financial viability was arguably at odds with the rapidly changing tourist industry. Seaside resorts such as Scarborough now face stiff competition from bigger regional attractions, which are now widely accessibly to an increasingly mobile cohort of visitors. Likewise, affordable foreign holidays also continue to threaten the traditional British seaside holiday, and both councils and developers alike must seek out new ways to attract visitors.

My memories are of a Scarborough for children – there were lots of attractions specifically aimed at kids. When I return now, it seems to be moving towards embracing a more adult audience. Perhaps this is my imagination – resorts are constantly changing to stay financially viable, and as I don’t live in Scarborough (yet!) I’m not as knowledgeable about recent developments as I eventually hope to be. However, one of my aims in creating Stories From Scarborough is to find creative ways to celebrate Scarborough’s reputation as a magical place for children.

Do you remember the Kinderland march? Did you take part? Please comment below with memories, opinions and/or corrections!

The above text is largely based upon articles published in The Scarborough News