Lottery warning over Earlston’s play park row

Earlston Community Developement Trust celebrate the news the are getting funding of a playpark at the Cauldie in Earlston.
Earlston Community Developement Trust celebrate the news the are getting funding of a playpark at the Cauldie in Earlston.

The Big Lottery Fund (BLF) has warned it will not sanction £250,000 for a new play park in Earlston unless the project has widespread support.

The warning came this week when the BLF was asked if the ongoing row over the proposed site for the play park was in danger of derailing the scheme.

In January, there was jubilation for Earlston Community Development Trust (ECDT), with news the BLF had reversed its decision last year to reject a bid for funding towards the cost of a play park to be sited on an area known as The Cauldie.

But not everyone wants to see The Cauldie used. The planning application, lodged by the community council, had attracted 44 objections and a perception the £300,000-plus project did not enjoy widespread public support was cited when the first lottery bid was rejected.

And last month an angry packed public meeting revealed the depth of division that the issue has opened up among Earlston’s residents.

Asked if the furore could see the BLF cancel its grant, a spokesperson for the organisation said it was aware of the disquiet and January’s angry public meeting.

“We have asked Earlston Community Development Trust to ensure its plans are fully understood across the wider community. It is a condition of the grant that this project has wide local support,” said a spokesperson.

“We will expect a period of community dialogue to take place locally and will not sanction our funding until we are satisfied that this has been properly explored.”

ECDT’s Mags Powell told us: “We are well aware it’s a lottery condition we have community support and that’s something we have to lead on.

“We’re now drawing up a development plan and need to get information with as much detail as possible out there as soon as we can, so people know what is happening.”

Asked if she was concerned the row could see the lottery grant withdrawn, she added: “We’ll have to see how it goes – that would be a decision for the lottery.”

SBC leader and local councillor David Parker, said the ECDT clearly has a lot of work still to do.

“They need to make sure as many people as possible in Earlston know what the plan is; they need to hold open days and maybe mark out the site at The Cauldie so people can see what is being talked about.

“Because the BLF won’t release funding until it’s satisfied all its conditions have been met, and the only real condition still outstanding is ensuring widespread community support, they’re going to have to work very hard on that, no doubt about it.”