Six North Herts playgrounds still face the axe

Linnet Close play area in Letchworth, one of the play areas for which that NHDC are appealing for co

Linnet Close play area in Letchworth, one of the play areas for which that NHDC are appealing for community involvement. Picture: NHDC - Credit: Archant

Community groups have been called upon to take over play areas in North Hertfordshire that otherwise face the axe.

Linnet Close play area in Letchworth, one of the play areas for which that NHDC are appealing for co

Linnet Close play area in Letchworth, one of the play areas for which that NHDC are appealing for community involvement. Picture: NHDC - Credit: Archant

North Herts District Council intends to remove equipment from 13 play areas it defines as having a “lower usage” unless it is able to arrange alternative funding for them, such as through community ownership.

The authority says potential funding options have been found for seven sites, leaving six others.

These are at Dacre Road and Symons Road in Hitchin, Linnet Close and Oaktree Close in Letchworth, Ivel Road in Baldock, and Farrier Court in Royston.

NHDC leisure portfolio holder Councillor Jane Gray said: “We fully recognise the importance of outside play areas for young children in North Hertfordshire. However, with our central government funding being drastically cut, we are unable to fund everything we would like to.

“Community groups already play a vital role in our local green spaces, and we urge them to work collaboratively with us to help ensure a secure future for these play areas.”

A district council spokeswoman added that NHDC will assist groups that step forward by putting them in touch with specialist playground firms for help and funding guidance.

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NHDC is pursuing this policy because it says it must find savings of £4.2 million by 2021/22.

Labour councillor Elizabeth Dennis, of Hitchin, has expressed doubts about the policy’s financial justification – but she stressed that the priority must be to save as many playgrounds as possible.

“Passing off £2,000 or so per playground per year for inspections, bin emptying, grass cutting and so on isn’t really going to make a significant dent in the £4.2m budget savings NHDC needs to make,” she said.

“But what’s important isn’t point-scoring – it’s that there are still six playgrounds which our communities might lose.

“Officers at NHDC have worked with communities, parish councils, voluntary groups and ward councillors to come up with creative ideas to save some of the playgrounds. And it’s important we do what we can to retain the remaining sites for our children.”

The closing date for group applications to manage a play area is March 1, 2018.

To find out more about taking on a play area’s management, see north-herts.gov.uk/playareas.

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