Parks proposal no “easy choice”

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THE VIEWS of parents on the proposed removal of play equipment from some of Montrose’s playparks will be taken into account by Angus Council, a local elected member has said.

Councillor Bill Duff told Montrose community councillors at their last meeting that there are “no easy choices” as the council tries to make £30 million worth of budget savings, but that public opinion would be taken into account.

Members were generally against the proposal, with chairman Tommy Stewart saying that he does not “think it’s a very clever idea”, but Mr Duff emphasised that cuts have to be made and removing play equipment from under-used parks is one option. He also emphasised that the parks themselves would not be closed and would still provide open space for children to play.

He said: “I think referring to play park closure is a bit misleading. We’re talking about removing old equipment and not replacing it, in which case it would be replaced with grass.

“The council has a budget of about £260 million and needs to save £30 million over the next three years. This exercise is an attempt to save money and every department has been asked to save three-and-a-half per cent. One saving is not replacing the equipment, which might not come down the line for several years. The other is that we have to inspect equipment every week and, as people leave the council, they’re not being replaced, so with less equipment and less staff, there would be a staff saving too.”

The council’s neighbourhood services department has said it could make a saving of around £100,000 in running costs if the proposals were implemented in full. There would, however, be one-off costs in removing redundant play equipment and reinstating land.

The eight parks in the Montrose area listed in department director Ron Ashton’s report are Adams Way, Dubton Village, Fettes Way, India Street, Market Park, Medicine Well, Provost Reid’s Road and The Curlie.

After heated discussions at last month’s neighbourhood services committee, councillors agreed that the report would go to a public consultation rather than be ratified immediately, a move welcomed by all members.

Mr Duff said: “Initial proposals have been based on how much the parks are used, where they are and the condition they’re in but if people have strong views about it then that’s the point of consultation, and the council will listen to what people have to say.”

The consultation will initially be with local community councils as well as parent councils of the area’s primary schools.