After a terrible year, kids are now being let down by council on playpark closures

BY A CONTRIBUTOR

PLAYPARKS in Inverness and elsewhere in the Highlands are being closed after being deemed dangerous.

Parents, not surprisingly, are furious over this. Workmen have begun removing play equipment or closing play areas in various locations, including Inverness and Beauly. They say, quite rightly, that the facilities are particularly vital during the pandemic.

And they’re right. Haven’t youngsters suffered enough during the past 12 months?

The Inverness Courier reported: “Aird and Loch Ness councillors Margaret Davidson, Helen Carmichael and Emma Knox were taken by surprise by temporary parks closures in their ward. In a joint statement, they said: ‘We have had discussions about the situation and are waiting for a detailed breakdown of why each affected play park is closed. Then, we can plan together to get them open and available as soon as possible.’

“Maxwell Park at Cradlehall is one of the affected play areas. Inverness South councillor Duncan Macpherson is unhappy about closures next to Duncan Forbes Primary School and at Maxwell Park in Cradlehall.”

This professed “surprise” and “unhappiness” is all very well. But, rather more pertinently, have councillors been falling down on the job?

To have all these playparks fail simultaneously is incredibly unlikely.

If they did not fail simultaneously then clearly some have been more dangerous than others for a while.

If the council knew that some were dangerous and decided to take no action then the question has to be asked – why?

The welfare of children in playparks is too important for anybody to be happy that the council has dodged a bullet on this issue through no accident apparently having happened.

The ongoing concerns about the state of the Infirmary Bridge in Inverness or the damage caused by any one of the council’s collection of 100,000 tyre shredding potholes suggest that when it comes to dealing with the physical protection of their assets – that is, our assets – then Highland Council needs to up its game.

When bridges, buildings, roads or equipment are allowed to become hazards before they are suddenly closed or removed or declared dangerous, there are clearly worrying and potentially life-threatening failures in the regular inspection and routine maintenance regimes and budget allocation procedures in place.

Someone has decided not to provide the funds to inspect and repair the councils infrastructure. Not one of the councillors or officers would ignore a leaking roof or crumbling foundation in their own homes. That is the standard of care and attention that we need them to be working towards.

The Highland Council committee report – Item 18 – relates to a discussion on playparks which took place as recently as December 17.

It says: “The report highlights that the current repairs and maintenance/replacement backlog is estimated to be £3.436m across our estate of 339 play parks. Options are presented for discussion; but given the scale of the backlog it is not clear how best to allocate the additional £100k investment agreed. It is proposed that Member views are gathered initially from Ward / Area Meetings where local data and ideas can be discussed more fully. It is also proposed that the play park budget is devolved to Area Committees for decision and local prioritisation. These proposals provide a place-based approach that involves Members, staff and community bodies working together to solve problems, prioritise action.”

How can any councillor imply that they knew nothing about this? They got a copy of the report and it was delegated to the area. They even got a list of the costs in the Appendix.

They must stop seeming to pretend they knew nothing when it is clear that they did know.

Obviously if these children’s pieces of equipment were designated as sculptures or artwork, they would be in absolutely pristine condition…

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