Borders parents are being reassured that no decisions have yet been made on whether their towns and villages’ playparks will be closed.
Scottish Borders Council convener David Parker says residents are “not to worry as yet”, promising that a full consultation exercise is yet to come over proposals to close 70-odd of the region’s small playparks.
The Melrose and Leaderdale councillor told last week’s Melrose Community Council meeting: “I can reassure everyone that nobody is taking away any playparks.
“A report will go before the council with officers’ suggestions. That will be discussed there, and it will find its way back to our full council.
“I can pretty much guarantee that there will be a recommendation that we go back for more detailed discussion and nothing will be removed until we have got agreements locally and we have agreed where there is going to be investment.
“There will be further discussions to be had.”
Last week, it emerged that the council is to consider closing 73 of its 243 smaller playparks ito help cover the cost of newer, larger ones.
That news proved unpopular region-wide, and more than 300 people signed a petition to oppose any closures in under 48 hours.
“This is not quite the process that is being painted,” Mr Parker said. “In fairness to the press, they have covered exactly what has come out. I think our council officers should have been more reassuring about the way they have taken this forward.
“The message really is ‘don’t worry about anything as yet’. Nothing will happen until we have had a much more detailed discussion with the community.”
Larger playparks have opened in Harestanes, Hawick, Selkirk and Galashiels recently as part of a £5m investment over 10 years.
Mr Parker added: “We are investing millions of pounds in new and improved playparks.
“We are working to reassure that every settlement will have good-quality playparks, but we want to take away some of the little ones that only have small pieces of kit, or perhaps not the most accessible pieces of kit, and that actually aren’t in a great state.
“We just cannot continue with a portfolio of 243 playparks. It’s just too big. Many of them need to come out.”
Among the main objections to any closures of smaller parks is the need to encourage children to get outdoors and the potential impact on those families without access to a car and thus unable to drive to one of the larger parks.
Jedburgh councillor Jim Brown this week agreed that the way the proposals have been communicated should have been better handled.
“It’s a bit of a debacle really,” he added. “My view is that the officers are being a bit premature in coming out and saying they are going to close 70-odd playparks.
“It would be far more sensible to say they are going to open it up to consultation and look at which ones are not being used or are most expensive to keep.
“Nobody seems to know how much each playpark costs individually to keep open. Some must be relatively cheap to keep. We need to see the figures.
“My concern is the ones that are being targeted are generally the ones most suitable for little infants.
“They really need a place for mums or grandparents to meet with prams without having to travel too far. I wouldn’t think these ones would be the most expensive to keep as they need very little equipment.
“The other side of it is that our communities could group together and take over their playparks for themselves.
“We need to see some consultation, though. To steamroller ahead and say they are going to close them is very unfeeling and not the way to do it.
“I think we are going to have to face up to the fact there are going to be some closures, but hopefully it’s the ones that are the least well used.”
Selkirkshire councillor Caroline Penman is also concerned, saying: “They should be looking at cheaper equipment, maybe like the wooden playparks you see, which require less upkeep.
“There should be a survey done to see how many kids live in each area near each park.
“It’s a bit of a sad day, to be honest, when the council is thinking about closing children’s playparks.
“It’s important to encourage kids to get outside, and that’s even more important in this day and age when it’s too easy to sit indoors in front of television or games.”
These are the 73 playparks facing closure ...
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