Playparks on January agenda

MORE than 1,000 people responded online or on paper to Angus Council’s recent consultation on the future of playparks in the county.

The exercise, which finished on Friday, December 14, followed a report which identified that a 51 of the playparks in Angus had issues with obsolete, difficult to repair equipment or did not meet current health and safety standards.

The council recently highlighted a potential £45 million shortfall in its capital programme funding. The £1.91 million requirement for play parks would be in addition to the £45 million shortfall already identified and removing equipment from the 51 play parks, which would cost £700,000 to bring up to standard, would save £31,000 annually in staff and maintenance costs.

While the proposals suggested that play equipment may have to be removed from a number of the county’s play parks, the surrounding park areas will remain open.

The report sparked a furious reaction from parents and community groups across the county who set up a campaign in opposition which staged demonstrations at the parks and, last week, handed over a petition of more than 2,000 signatures against the proposal.

More than 200 schoolchildren in Montrose also signed their own petition and wrote their own letters of objection to the council.

Councillor Donald Morrison, neighbourhood services convener, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who took the time and trouble to fill in the survey forms and hope that by extending the time available to do this, everyone who wished to do so was able to express their opinions.

“The next step will be a report to committee in January where we will look at the details of the survey results for each area, and decisions will be made at a later date.”

The council’s rating of some of the play areas as “poor” has, however, been challenged by Ferryden community councillor David Wilson who visited each of the eight affected parks in the Montrose area.

He said: “If the parks we saw in Montrose were typical then I am very surprised to read that the council would need £700,000 to bring the threatened parks up to scratch. All the parks under threat in Montrose are in fine order apart from maybe needing a coat of paint.

Because much of the framing is heavy steel, it is likely to last for years without paint. So why does the assessment schedule rate some as ‘Poor’? I would say the condition of the equipment is a credit to whoever attended to it.

“It appears the assessment criteria were related more to the age of the equipment than to the condition of the equipment, as the parks rated ‘Poor’ were the parks with older equipment in fine order.

“All fittings appeared to be in sound order and many of the threatened parks have been surfaced with expensive soft landing material. At what cost? These parks have been well installed with ratepayers’ money.”

Mr Wilson also said that while the council has to reduce its budget and funding might not be available for new equipment, improvements could be added when money is available without “destroying what we already have”.

He added: “I am also very aware that in the interests of children’s health, safe accessible activity areas are essential, so it is important we retain every one of the threatened parks in Montrose.”