Scottish Borders Council

Agenda item

Provision of Outdoor Community Spaces

Update on the programme of work delivering a strategic network of outdoor community spaces, including current planned investment and recommendations on obsolete play areas (copy of report attached).


4.1       There had been circulated copies of a report by the Service Director Assets & Infrastructure setting out guidance and recommendations for the Eildon Area for future investment in Public Play facilities and proposals for the removal of obsolete play areas.  The proposals referred to were agreed as part of the Council’s 2018/19 Capital Investment Plan and updated within the Capital Investment Plan of 2019/20.  The Service Director, Martin Joyce, and Eildon Neighbourhood Area Manager, Craig Blackie, were in attendance at the meeting to present the report and to ask for feedback from communities on the proposals.  Mr Joyce explained that the 2019/20 Capital Investment Plan had funding of £5.036m for investment within Outdoor Community Spaces over the next 10 years.  This presented a tremendous asset for communities, but also brought a maintenance burden, for which no additional revenue resources were being provided.  As part of the original investment within the 2018/19 Capital Investment Plan, it was simultaneously agreed by Council to review the distribution of play equipment provision across play parks in the Borders, which could:


(1)        inform decision making around future investment in communities; and

(2)        guide the rationalisation of obsolete play facilities which were deemed no longer fit for purpose, ensuring a cost neutral impact on established budgets with the service.


The removal of obsolete facilities was required to ensure there was a cost neutral impact on established budgets within the service. 


4.2       Mr Blackie explained that the Scottish Borders currently had 243 play parks, including those located within schools, ranging from smaller local areas for play (LAPs) to strategic destination play parks.   In comparison with other Local Authorities in Scotland who had similar characteristics, the Scottish Borders had significantly more play parks per head of population than the average; however, the average play value of the facilities (i.e. quality of provision) was significantly lower than the national average.   In recent years a more significant level of investment in play across the Scottish Borders had been delivered through the Council’s capital programme supplemented by a range of different opportunities that have been realised by community led initiatives.  These were shown in an appendix to the report and included, most recently, facilities in Wilton Lodge Park, Hawick and in the Public Park, Galashiels.  The strategy was to now provide further additional high quality facilities in a range of other locations across the region.  Alongside these strategic sites, the Council was committed to reviewing the wider network to ensure that local play provision continued to best serve communities. The review had considered Play Value (a standard assessment based on Fields in Trust criteria); In-house inspection; and proximity to other similar or better facilities. As a result of the assessment, 74 play parks had been identified as meeting the criteria for being decommissioned, those within the Eildon area being listed in a table within the report. 


4.3       The officers responded to questions and noted feedback from those present at the meeting.  It was confirmed that a community group could take over and develop a play park if it wished to do so (as had occurred at Selkirk and Stow). In fact community groups were at an advantage in that they had access to access other sources of funding.  This would be subject to the group accepting ongoing responsibility for maintenance. Mr Joyce confirmed that the Council would engage with any community group that met the criteria, with regard to a land/asset transfer.  Points were raised about the distances between some of the play parks identified in Galashiels for decommissioning and the location of the new high quality play facility in the Public Park (the park at Lee Brae was given as an example).  It was considered unreasonable for families to be expected to walk that distance to the nearest play park. Mr Blackie stressed that this was the type of feedback that the Council wanted and would take this into account before any final decisions were made.  It was emphasised that no play park would be decommissioned until a reasonable alternative had been identified and investment completed. In further discussion, issues of social disadvantage were raised, it being pointed out that some of the recent investment into play facilities were at locations which required access by car. Mr Joyce reiterated the value of local knowledge and the importance of communities providing feedback on the proposals. He confirmed that feedback could be provided via the Council’s website. 



Councillor Parker left the meeting.


Supporting documents:



Scottish Borders Council

Council Headquarters Newtown St. Boswells Melrose TD6 0SA

Tel: 0300 100 1800


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