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Equipment at the seven playparks earmarked for closure on Arran will be removed in days, it has been confirmed.
Despite a huge outcry over the closure of the playparks, North Ayrshire Council is pressing ahead with plans to take them away, despite ongoing talks led by Arran Community Council.
The community council had held, what it believed to be, constructive talks with council officials last week with a view to looking at alternatives to the proposals. But members were hit by a bombshell this week when they were told: ‘The parks will be removed in the next week’.
As previously reported by the Banner, the council said the move will save £55,000 a year, but it has been heavily criticised due to the move coming on the back of the controversial closure of public toilets on Arran.
There are currently 24 playparks on the island but the council says this needs to be reduced to 17. And, as if to add insult to injury, it says the reason is because the council currently has two officers spending 1.5 days per week coming over to inspect all the equipment and this needs to be reduced to one day due to limited resources.
Sites currently being proposed for removal are: three in Lamlash at Lamlash shore, by the jewellers, and Hospital Road, along with Cordon, Machrie, Whitefarland and Corrie sandstone quay playparks.
Following talks with council officials last week, community council chairman Bill Calderwood brought a report before members which suggested they should check their local facilities and, if possible, recognise removal or suggest an alternative through ‘community engagement’.
He told the meeting in Brodick: ‘It is not simply a cost impact and if the villages were to fund the £29 per week cost it would not resolve the issue. If we wish to retain any of these we need to propose an alternative. The recommended inspection interval is weekly and this cannot be compromised.
Mr Calderwood had asked if it were possible to have the work carried out by council workers or someone else on the island, but this was rejected. He said: ‘I was told it is not practical to have local resources carry out technical inspections without training. Initial training may be possible but it would need to be complemented by attending a formal certification course costing approximately £4,000. Local staff are not available to carry out inspections and are not qualified.’
But Shiskine representative Neil Arthur was far from impressed by the suggestion that the community council should suggest alternatives.
He said: ‘I’m not playing their game. They brought in RET then shut the toilets and now they are taking away an outdoor facility. You really could not make this up. Now they say the parks will shut next week, that’s not community engagement, I call that dictatorship.’
Councillor Timothy Billings, who attended the meeting, said he would take the matter up when he went to a council meeting the following day. He said: ‘The buck for all this really stops with my predecessors.’
A spokesman for North Ayrshire Council said: ‘Arran will have 16 play parks located across the island which we are confident will provide excellent provision for young people.
“We are removing seven facilities in total with work on clearing the sites set to start over the next couple of weeks. In the main these are single swing facilities plus one small play park at Lamlash Shore
‘We have spoken to the community council and indicated that we will remove the seats from the six single swing parks which will enable us to reinstate them fairly easily if the community – via an Asset Transfer – want to take over the facility. We are also willing to look at which parks we remove – ensuring that the same amount remain open – if the community council provide us with an alternative and viable option.’
‘Lamlash Shore is a different matter as two pieces of equipment are near end of life and need removing. The jet fighter is starting to corrode and the springer no longer springs due to lack of use,’ the spokesman added.