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Council accused of not playing fair over popular Highland children's play park

By Louise Glen

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Alasdair Rhind with concerned residents. Picture: Callum Mackay
Alasdair Rhind with concerned residents. Picture: Callum Mackay

A councillor has called for heads to roll after a community effort to reopen a busy town play park was rejected by Highland Council.

As part of a series of immediate park closures across the Highlands by officers conducting safety checks, Tain Links play park was shut last weekend because the bark chippings which provide a soft ground covering around play equipment need to be replaced.

A plan was devised to use locally sourced chippings, but the council has said it is not usable as it does not meet European safety standards.

Now local councillors face having to use up to £4000 of their discretionary ward budget to get the required chippings if they want the park to reopen.

Councillor Alasdair Rhind said many parents had spoken or written to him about the closure of the park during the Easter holidays, and he was as shocked as they were.

He said: “We had an hour-long council meeting last week to discuss the play parks. At no point was I, or any of the other ward councillors, made aware of the imminent closure, yet last Friday afternoon swings were tied up and the play park was effectively closed.”

He added he believed the park situation was just another sign that the area’s needs were being actively “ignored” by Highland Council.

“It is disgraceful and hurtful – we are being neglected here,” he said.

Tain Playpark lack of bark and swings removed. Picture: Callum Mackay
Tain Playpark lack of bark and swings removed. Picture: Callum Mackay

“You only have to look at the state of the roads, the lack of public toilets or the fact Highland Council is building a brand new high school without a swimming pool, to show that we are being put to the back of the queue all the time.

“The play park is the final straw. Not only are officers ignoring local members but they are being disrespectful to the whole community.”

He had approached a local bark supplier who he said has always been very helpful to the community, but was told by council officials that the bark had to come from a source in Inverness which carries a European safety standard certificate.

He said: “I thought we were out of Europe, and I don’t imagine that the bark supplied in Inverness is very different to the bark supplied in Tain. The cost of replacing the bark will be £4000 from the council but it would have been a fraction of that cost from our local source.

“We need to get rid of the officials who tell us we have no money – that will free up some money to get the job done.”

Parent Sandra Skinner, who is also a list candidate for the Reform UK party in the forthcoming Scottish elections, said: “Enough is enough.

“Children need to play and get back to normal.

“It is infuriating that the play park is closed and we want it reopened now.

“Tain is being left behind by Highland Council – you just have to look at the state of the High Street, our roads and the closure of play parks.”

She has launched a petition demanding play parks be reopened which can be found online at https://bit.ly/2QrEDvC

A spokesman for Highland Council said it was vital that wood chip met the required safety standards and added: “We are required to make safe or remove unsafe pieces of play equipment. This includes if the surface under the equipment is not adequate.

“We notify members of the action we have taken but are not required to seek their approval to make safe any issues identified as a health and safety risk.

“We are working to get the play park open as quickly as we can.”

READ: Handful of 'thugs' making life misery for some in Easter Ross town of Tain

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