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Highland Council threw away £50,000 on play park, says Inverness councillor


By Louise Glen

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Councillor Ken Gowans at Milton of Leys Children's playpark....Picture: Callum Mackay..
Councillor Ken Gowans at Milton of Leys Children's playpark....Picture: Callum Mackay..

An Inverness councillor says Highland Council paid £50,000 to fix a play area but then failed to maintain it.

Claiming the local authority had “literally thrown money away”, councillor Ken Gowans said not paying for play areas was the thin end of the wedge for council taxpayers.

Cllr Gowans said the neglect of a play area at Milton of Leys was indicative of the “mindset” in the local authority.

“The play area at Milton of Leys has been on my agenda for years,” he said. “Six years ago, with the help of the Inverness Courier, we managed to shame the council into paying to put right problems with flooding at the park.

“I was delighted, and I believed we had turned a corner. But little did I know that the department in the council who paid more than £50,000 to fix the play area was not the department who would maintain it.

“Of course, they didn’t talk to each other and the park has not been maintained. It has literally thrown money away.

“If the council can throw £50,000 at this park and then not maintain it, what else are they doing?

“I am furious. Every taxpayer should be furious, this was their money that the council simply wasted. Because of Highland Council’s lack of maintenance, the play equipment has been removed, and the foam ground covering has started to lift up.”

Councillor Ken Gowans at Milton of Leys Children's playpark....Picture: Callum Mackay..
Councillor Ken Gowans at Milton of Leys Children's playpark....Picture: Callum Mackay..

As the Courier went to print, councillors were discussing a proposal to take £100,000 out of the local authority’s play park budget.

“With fewer than one worker for every 100 play parks – these will be one of the first of the amenities to go,” cllr Gowans said. “The budget papers for the council are proposing to remove even more of the funding for play parks. What next? People need to make a stand, or everything we hold dear will be gone.

“It is the mindset in the council to cut away at budgets. If things are broken – instead of fixing them, they get rid of them altogether.”

One parent, who complained about the play park, but did not want to be named, said: “I have three school-aged children and no money because I was furloughed.

“The one thing we can do together is go to the play park. But it is shameful – there are no swings, and the equipment does not

work.”

Milton of Leys Community Council chairman Bob Roberts confirmed the play park continued to be on the group’s agenda, but it had not met to discuss the matter because of the pandemic.

A council spokeswoman said the future of Milton of Leys play park was under consideration.

“Post-lockdown inspections are being carried out across all of Highland Council’s 436 play spaces of which 336 are equipped play areas with 2011 individual items of play equipment,” she added. “The inspections are prioritised by size and use of park.

“For public safety – the swings that have been removed at Milton of Leys play area were faulty and cannot be repaired or replaced as their design has been discontinued and budget is not available for replacement.

“Further decisions on the park will be made after annual inspections have taken place.”

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