Borders council bosses urged to scrap proposals to shut playparks and go back to drawing board

Kelso community councillors Colin McGrath and Dean Weatherston at the playpark next to the High Croft Co-op.
Kelso community councillors Colin McGrath and Dean Weatherston at the playpark next to the High Croft Co-op.

Parents and children in the Borders should have the final say on the future of more than 70 under-threat playparks, according to a community spokesman.

There was widespread anger last month as proposals emerged from Scottish Borders Council for the closure of dozens of smaller playparks as part of a 10-year plan to invest £10m in larger facilities.

The authority believes the way forward is to provide more and better equipment concentrated in bigger playparks such as those opened at Selkirk, Hawick and Harestanes, near Ancrum, in recent years, and with others soon to follow in Kelso, Coldstream and Peebles.

A new pump track is also planned for Hawick’s Wilton Lodge Park, plus skateparks in Jedburgh and Peebles.

However, the move to close 73 of the region’s 243 smaller facilities to offset the cost of that fresh investment has been widely condemned.

Kelso community councillor Colin McGrath, chairman of the community council network in the Borders, is urging the local authority to go back to the drawing board.

He wants communities threatened by the closures to have the ultimate say and is calling for representatives of all community councils in the five area partnership patches Borders to have face-to-face meetings with council bosses.

He also wants site visits to each of the threatened playparks, so parents and children can attend alongside council officers to have their say.

Mr McGrath: “What we need to do is scrap it and start again. From the outset, it should have been proposed that the community put forward its views before any proposal went to the council. The council can then look at it and decide.

“At the moment, it’s them telling us what to do and then we have to decide whether we like it or not.

“The main thing is how did they come up with these conclusions? Where was the community involvement?

“They contacted the chief financial officer – non-community; the monitoring officer – non-community; the chief legal officer – non-community; the service director – non-community; and so it goes on.

“There was no community consultation, no consultation with the people who use these facilities, the mothers of children or the fathers of children.

“All it would take would be to get officers together with a group of local people to walk around all the playparks, which could probably be done in one day.”

Mr McGrath also suggested council planning rules have added to the problem.

He explained: “Part of the problem has been when housing groups build houses, they also have to build playparks, and some of them are putting them in because that’s what they’re told, rather than looking to the needs of that area, even putting in playparks when building houses for the elderly.

“Many have sprung up because of those planning rules, not because they were needed by children.”

These are the 73 playparks facing closure ...

www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk/news/politics/these-are-the-73-borders-playparks-facing-closure-1-4958994

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