Plans to restore a park play area following an arson attack have been given a £5,000 boost.

Parents were outraged and children left in tears after the pirate ship play area for toddlers in Darlington’s South Park was destroyed by fire in February.

Community campaigners responded by launching a £23,000 appeal to replace the play area and the target is now £5,000 closer thanks to a grant from County Durham Community Foundation (CDCF).

The grant was presented on behalf of three charitable funds managed by the Foundation: Lendrum Family Grassroots Fund (Darlington); Ingenious Darlington Latimer Hinks Fund; and Darlington Building Society Community First Revenue Fund.

John Throw, chair of the Friends of South Park, said: “We are very grateful to CDCF and the fund holders involved, which means that the play area should be open for the summer when the park is at its busiest.

“Although this has been terrible, some good has come of it, as the public has reacted to it and made donations as well. Darlington residents were outraged at the destruction – kiddies were really upset and parents were nearly crying. It is such a wonderful park.”

Barbara Gubbins, chief executive of the Community Foundation, said: “This was a senseless and heart-breaking attack on a vital community facility. On behalf of our funding partners, we are thrilled to make a significant contribution towards having it restored and, hopefully, putting a smile back on the children’s faces.”

Kathleen Rickaby, Customer Service Consultant for Darlington Building Society, said: “Darlington Building Society is delighted to be able to help to restore the play area to its former state. We are a Darlington business and always happy to help with community projects like this.”

Elizabeth Armstrong, Head of the Trust Department at Latimer Hinks, said: “The arson attack on the play area was devastating, but the response of the community has been overwhelmingly positive, with residents and businesses backing the fundraising campaign. We’re pleased to have been able to contribute towards its replacement and the many happy memories that will be made in the new play area.”

Chris Lendrum, from the Lendrum Family Fund said: A mindless arson attack on a children’s play area struck me as being so unacceptable that the least I could do was to make a contribution to putting things right – and to putting a smile on the children’s faces again

The aim is to install a piece of play equipment in the form of a large train, offering different play experiences such as climbing, sliding and role play.