Council's long-term play park strategy has suffered delays due to the Coivd-19 pandemic
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Councillors were informed of the delays at an update report on the mid-term review of the Play Strategy 2020-25, at a Leisure and Development Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 23.
The report’s purpose was to request approval from councillors for recommendations to be actioned over the remaining term of the strategy. The council’s Head of Sport and Wellbeing, Wendy McCullough, emphasised that, while the report acts as a tool to prioritise projects for future investment, it did not constitute budget approval.
The Council commissioned an independent play centre specialist, PlayBoard NI, to develop an overarching play and investment strategy for the borough.
Playboard NI drafted an action plan, with a recommended investment budget of over £4.1m, across seven DEA areas, over five years. However, Mrs McCullough said this figure was now “outdated” due to subsequent “construction hyperinflation”. Plans include an accessible destination play area in Limavady and play areas in Portrush, Coleraine and Ballykelly.
Certain elements of the strategy, such as planned play parks at Coleraine’s Waterside and Waterfoot, have made no progress so far, due to the pandemic-related delays.
“The Covid pandemic has inhibited progress,” Mrs McCullough said. “In addition, Council’s restricted financial position in the early years of the strategy also slowed down progress for projects as they couldn’t secure external funding. Indicative project costs are now outdated and don’t reflect current construction prices. Prices could potentially be uplifted by circa 50 per cent, to over £6m."
Sinn Féin Councillor Cara McShane said she was concerned that the park plans for Waterfoot had been “forgotten about”. She added: “In my opinion it’s one of those villages which could have availed of renewal funding or some other funding, but there’s been absolutely no progress with it.”
Mrs McCullough conceded that plans for Waterfoot, and other areas, had “not progressed to the stage that officers would have wanted at this stage”. She concluded: “I hope that we will see a lot more progress by the time we come to the completion of the five-year plan.”