AROUND 150 playparks across the Kingdom will not be refurbished or repaired and will have play equipment removed as part of a new strategy.

With an estimated bill of at least £30 million to maintain and improve the sites they have, Fife Council have drawn up a different swings and roundabouts approach.

Paul Vaughan, head of communities and neighbourhoods service, said: "Over the whole of Fife, we have 446 different play sites, 292 fit neatly into our categories but 146 of them are not really complying and tend to be sites where there is very limited play equipment or they are very old and slightly dilapidated."

One example he gave was at White’s Quay in Dalgety Bay, which has just one swing that is suitable only for babies.

He added: "The proposal is to prioritise the 292 sites alongside investment in eight new sites and look to transition other sites into something with better value; normally that's the natural play spaces approach."

Consultation took place in 2019 and, at the community and housing services sub-committee last week, he admitted there had been "significant delays" in finalising the play places strategy for 2021-26, partly due to staff being redeployed to other roles during the pandemic.

The aim is to provide "good play value" for children of different ages and needs, while ensuring the financial sustainability of playpark provision in Fife.

The council now have four categories of play areas: natural play spaces, "non-equipped" greenspaces with features such as logs, mounds, plants and public art; local playparks, within five minutes' walk of most homes and with a range of play equipment for primary school and younger children; a town playpark, which would potentially take longer to walk to and will contain more equipment, including some for kids in the early years of high school; and a destination playpark, such as Pittencrieff Park, where most people will have to travel to get to but with the widest range of equipment and with facilities like toilets and cafes.

Mr Vaughan said play equipment in the 146 sites would not be replaced as part of the change to become natural play spaces.

The council chief conceded it was a "considerable number" but said they had "very limited play value" and could be turned into "something much better".

Quizzed by councillors, he promised that discussions would take place at a local level before decisions were made about specific sites.

Discussions are ongoing with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) about the cost of refurbishing playparks across Scotland and Mr Vaughan added: "To do this work in Fife alone, it could be around £30m.

"We have made some inroads over the past four years – in 2017 there was funding (£3.5m) in the capital plan and on top of that there's been a large amount of community fundraising that's gone on and resulted in playparks being refurbished across Fife."

The council will look to their capital investment plan, as well as other funding streams, to pay for the work while the Scottish Government have come up with an initial £5.5m to improve play spaces.

Fife's share is £344,000 and Mr Vaughan said: "We'll be using that funding to repair and replace broken equipment as much as we can, particularly swings."

He added: "There is a large number of pieces of play equipment we have across Fife that has a life expectancy of less than 10 years so there's a pressing need to get on and address this issue."

Cllr Linda Erskine said: "What we're faced with here is a lifetime of under-investment and now we're playing catch-up.

"While the £344,000 is very welcome, it will only scratch the surface. It seems to me we're focusing on asking communities to fund their own playparks much more than the council as there's no real money to invest in playparks."

Crossgates Play Area Association has set up a JustGiving page in a bid to raise £500 for the new Windmill Knowe play area.

It allows the local community to make donations and they're nearly half way to their target.

The page states: "Our aim is to provide inclusive play area facilities in Crossgates. We will act to protect and deliver safe, sustainable community greenspace for the wider Crossgates community, to improve social interaction, physical and mental wellbeing. Plans relate to replacing existing play equipment (swings, chute etc) at Windmill Knowe with inclusive equipment within the existing swing park area. There are no plans, current or future, to develop the open green space. The council would remain responsible for the area.

"If more people come on board, other parks in the village could be possible so why not join us? Please see the Fife play space strategy for more background information as to why we have come together."