Caithness members supported in their call for a Highland-wide Playground Strategy
At last week’s meeting of The Highland Council Members supported a starred item put forward by Caithness Members.
The Thurso and North West Caithness and the Wick and East Caithness Ward Councillors asked that the Council creates and implements a Council wide playground strategy that considers the needs and expectations of communities and supports the active play, well-being and social activity of children and their families.
Earlier this year the Scottish Government announced national funding over the life of the parliament for play areas. Officers have engaged with the Scottish Government and Cosla and it is now known that the allocation for 21/22 has been confirmed as £5m nationally. The Highland Council’s allocation is £234,000 (4.68%) and will be paid as part of the General Capital Grant. The allocation criteria for the first phase of funding is 95% on population 0-14 years of age and 5% on rurality. The phasing of the £55m allocation over the remaining years is yet to be determined.
At its January 2021 meeting the Council agreed to devolve decisions about play areas to area committees, for a review of local provision, agree next steps and to identify a range of local funds to help make the change required, including additional ward discretionary grant in 2021/22 to reduce the four harms of Covid. Local discussions have been taking place between members and officers and in some places with community bodies. The Caithness Committee already agreed to allocate up to £40,000 for each of the two wards in the area (£80,000 in total) towards play park refurbishment/repairs/improvements with an emphasis on those parks in a rural setting, with a view to seeking match funding from local grant providers and local groups to complement this allocation.
These discussions and reviews are taking place in all Council areas.
The Executive Chief Officer for Communities and Place Carron McDiarmid said “Local reviews of playparks are currently underway with Members and officers working to identify investment priorities for playparks in each area. This will help inform the development of a Highland-wide strategy and the basis for the allocation of the £234,000 capital grant made available this year. A report with proposals will be presented to Communities and Place Committee in November with options for allocating the £234,000 across Highland.”
Representing the Caithness Members who had put forward the starred item Councillor Willie Mackay said: “We were delighted to get the support of all members in our proposal for a comprehensive Highland-wide playground strategy and we look forward to working closely with officers in moving forward. The benefits of active play among our young people cannot be underestimated. We need to do all we can to provide the investment needed so young people in our communities have facilities they can enjoy for years to come.”