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Review to decide future of Bicester's ‘past it’ play parks
A FULL review of Bicester’s play areas is to take place with a warning that “difficult decisions” will have to be taken.
Bicester Town Council will undertake a full audit of its 67 parks, looking at the state of equipment and usage of the facility.
A report will be presented to councillors in the coming months.
Last summer parents and youngsters called on the council to upgrade dated equipment and increase the standard of Bicester’s parks so they are in line with other towns.
They said play equipment was old-fashioned and tired and complained there were no sandpits or water play facilities.
In April several firms will present ideas for play parks refurbishment to councillors, including an idea of the cost for such a project.
Town council operations manager Chris Johnson warned councillors they would need “deep pockets” to fund a project of refurbishment.
Environment committee chairman Lynn Pratt said no decision had been made to close any parks.
She said: “What we need to do is look at our play areas. A lot of the equipment is past it.
“This is not a money-saving exercise – we think it needs it.”
But Cllr James Porter said the council would face tough financial decisions next year as it would lose a Government grant and would need to make up the cash to balance the books.
He said one idea could be for communities to take more control of their parks.
Mr Porter said: “We should be talking to local people about how they can help to create grants and sponsorship and looking after their play areas.
“We can do something rather ground-breaking and different to how the town council manages play areas.
“It’s not just about saving money but how we deliver good services with local people.”
The council says it costs £200,000 a year to maintain sports pitches, pavilions, open space, nature areas and parks in Bicester – with £45,000 spent on its parks alone.
It confirmed it had about three years’ of developer funding left to maintain parks and outdoor space. When new estates are built, developers pay cash to the council to maintain play areas for a set period.
Cllr Les Sibley says the council should be asking for grants and sponsorship now to fund a refurbishment programme, and should start asking for a cut of developer 106 funding, which is separate to the maintenance cash.
He said: “When there’s Section 106 money available, we should be putting forward our bid to get that money.
“Any development that takes place in Bicester, we should be banging on the door.
“The county and district councils get theirs.
“We need to come up with some inspirational ideas with regards to play equipment.”