Earlston play park plan axed

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Earlston has lost out on almost £300,000 in grants after villagers voted almost three to one against siting a new play park at Mill Meadow.

Announcing the outcome of the recent postal ballot this morning, Earlston Community Development Trust (ECDT) said the result signalled the end of the road for the project.

There were 1,880 people eligible to vote in the ballot, with 1,190 votes actually cast, nine of which were declared invalid.

The result was 314 in favour of the Mill Meadow location and 867 against the controversial site, which had divided the village in a bitter row, forcing the Big Lottery Fund to warn if there was not widespread community support, it would not release its award of £250,000.

The outcome of the school ballots saw 101 primary pupils in favour of Mill Meadow and 47 against, with 50 youngsters at Earlston High School in favour, and 66 against.

The school ballots, however, do not form part of the overall count but will be submitted as part of the trust’s engagement report to the Big Lottery Fund. The breakdown of all three ballots will be posted on the trust website and village noticeboards.

The outcome of the ballot therefore signals the scrapping of the entire play park project and the termination of all three grant awards, totalling just under £300,000.

Mags Powell, chair of the trust, said the group was “hugely saddened” by the result and the subsequent failure to secure an adventure play park for Earlston’s children and families, in what had seemed like the ideal location.

“Many communities in the Borders and further afield have exciting play opportunities situated in riverside and open green space locations and it is a real shame that Earlston children never will,” she told The Southern this week.

“Despite our disappointment we are also hugely relieved that the whole episode is now over. I am very proud of ECDT’s dignified efforts over the last few years and would like thank my board for its support, all of our volunteers and supporters, Scottish Borders Council and the Big Lottery Fund.”

The grants which are now terminated are from the Big Lottery Fund (£250,000 less engagement plan and ballot costs); Landfill Communities Fund (£27,452); Robertson Trust (£13,869).