A STRUGGLING skateboard park will have the support of children when they lobby councillors to protect its future.

More than 1,400 young members of the Ape skate park, in Thornaby, will be lobbying members of Stockton Borough Council's cabinet to save the park.

The park, in Martinet Road, Thornaby Industrial Estate, has been a huge success in terms of the numbers it attracts, but is struggling financially, and might have to close or raise prices to survive.

Not only does the park provide children with somewhere to play other than the dangerous streets, but one school, Westlands, sends its youngsters there for lessons.

Youngsters are expected to stage a wheeled protest outside Stockton Town Hall during Thursday's meeting.

Roger Awah, the park's owner, has met the council's regeneration officers and asked for business rate relief or financial help.

He is expecting the council to turn down his requests, based on the fact the park is a profit-making business and the council does not have a responsibility towards helping businesses in trouble. Mr Awah said: "I'm anxious to keep the park going for the benefit of the youngsters, especially, the ones who cannot afford to go elsewhere.

"I charge them affordable amounts, only £1 an hour. So, for only £7 they can stay all day and the parents really support me.

"School kids from a special school come here as part of their lessons, so we're an educational resource as well as a social service.

"If I priced the youngsters out of the park, they'd only end up on the streets and annoy people and get into trouble."