Responsibility for play parks due to transfer

Swings in disrepair on Berwick Walls

Swings in disrepair on Berwick Walls

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Berwick Town Council is likely to be handed responsibility for play areas currently run by Northumberland County Council from next April.

The county council is aware of the growing groundswell of opinion about the poor state of play parks in Berwick so is keen to transfer them as soon as possible.

The town council has previously agreed to take on responsibility and has allocated £100,000 in this year’s budget towards urgent remedial work and some replacement items at Flagstaff Park.

However, the fine details of the transfer still need to be ironed out.

The county council favours an agency agreement rather than a freehold transfer, as the latter would be costly for both parties in terms of legal costs, and would also take a long time.

The agency agreement is the simplest and quickest option through which the town council would become responsible for play equipment. Responsibility would include inspection, insurance, repair and maintenance and replacement, while grounds maintenance would stay with the county council.

But Councillor Georgina Hill said: “Many of the play parks are in a terrible state and we want to see them improved but we are getting the worst of all worlds if we don’t own the freehold.

“We are committing a lot of money, a big chunk of our precept, to improve play park provision and I think we should own the freehold.

“Sometimes we just roll over a bit for the county council. We should be robust about what we are trying to do and not just give in because we’re told it will take years and be very expensive legally.”

However, Mayor Isabel Hunter warned that Ord Parish Council was still waiting to secure the freehold for its play park lodged in 2009.

“It could be five or six years down the line before the freehold is transferred to the town council,” she warned.

Other members felt the town council would have to take on the agency agreement.

The ownership, management and maintenance of play areas has been an issue since Northumberland became a unitary authority in 2009.

Berwick is one of the few parish and town councils which has not yet taken on play parks.

It is understood most other local councils have opted for an agency agreement.

Members agreed to discuss the matter further.

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