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Caithness News Bulletins June 2005

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Highland Council A Play Strategy For Highland

25 June 05
COUNCIL COMMITS MORE FUNDING TO COMMUNITY PROJECTS

The Highland Council has made a short and long term commitment to fostering community projects.  It is to allocate 900,000 over the next two years to deal with the backlog of replacing play equipment and upgrading surfaces in Council-owned play areas as well as providing matching capital funding for appropriate community play and skateboard projects.

It is also to spend 150,000 annually to support the maintenance and ongoing costs of community projects, supplementing existing Council funding streams, and to examine how best to provide insurance cover for community projects, which are supported or endorsed by the Council.

Caithness area convenor David Flear who had raised the matter at an earlier meeting said, "I am particularly pleased that it has been recognised that play activities forma an important part of a child's development and that the council has been able to identify funding to carry out some work".  Bill Fernie councillor for Wick West and Caithness Children's Champion add his agreement "It has been clear for some years that many people were concerned by the council's lack of action on play equipment.  I am glad we have now been able to begin to tackle the backlog of missing equipment and deal with the complexities surrounding insurance of areas such as skateboard parks now appearing in various place." 

Meeting in Inverness on 23 June 2005, The Council agreed the spending plans as it adopted a new corporate policy governing community projects, which will allow Council staff to be more responsive to a wide range of community initiatives, ranging from village hall developments and play areas and skateboard parks to the construction of new slipways and footpaths.

Convener Councillor Alison Magee warmly welcomed the adoption of the new policy She said: ~We are aware that this is a very important issue in our communities and I am delighted that we will now be better able to engage with local community projects to more successfully enable project development and sustainability.

A report considered by the Council highlighted the lack of investment in Council-owned play areas. Independent annual inspection indicated that 94 of the 402 Council play areas required equipment or surfacing to be replaced.

In agreeing a corporate policy governing community projects, the Council will: -

  • Introduce a single grant application form for all community projects;

  • Establish a single Council-wide database for the registration of all community projects requiring Council support of any kind (land, funding, staff time, assistance in kind, etc);

  • Delegate to Area Committees the role as the Gatekeeper of all community projects - addressing the assessment, endorsement and resourcing of each, taking into account standard project assessment issues, such as risks of failure, exit strategies, sustained management, etc;

  • Request all Council Officers and Area Managers in particular to recognise the level of advice and support which can be given to community groups which will require to recognise the full resource and risk implications which will fall to the Council and all other parties involved with community projects.

At the same meeting, the Council welcomed the progress being made in developing a Play Strategy for the Highlands. The policy aims to promote the Highlands as a child/family friendly environment and to encourage community involvement in the development and maintenance of play environments. It also aims to ensure that: -

  • All Highland's children and families are able to access fun, stimulating and appropriate play environments;

  • All play environments enable children to take appropriate risks which encourage the child to explore limits, venture into new experiences and develop their capacities;

  • All children are able to access outdoor activities in all weather conditions to ensure that the foundations for an active lifestyle are established;

  • Young people are involved and consulted in all areas of play development.