COMMUNITY groups in the Peeblesshire area are being offered the chance to save their closure-threatened play parks by taking over responsibility for their maintenance.

However, any groups doing so are being warned they would have to purchase their own insurance and liability cover.

The offer follows the announcement that more than a quarter of the region’s play facilities are being considered for closure by Scottish Borders Council.

The move has angered residents and several petitions have been gathered to fight the plans.

Now the council has issued a statement which says: “The council is open to communities taking over maintenance of any play parks which are being proposed for closure and would encourage these groups to contact the local authority before August 19, if interested.”

But local opposition councillors in Tweeddale have been quick to respond.

While they support the concept of communities banding together to maintain their parks, it is thought the prospect of taking legal responsibility is proving a deterrent.

Councillor Stuart Bell (SNP, Tweeddale East) is concerned the closures would mainly affect toddlers, and youngsters up to the age of seven. He told us: “For young children, especially, it is vital that there are nearby play parks where they can be supervised by their parents.

“It’s one thing for a local community to fundraise and invest in a play park, but it’s a different thing to take over the maintenance.”

Local communities who do so would be responsible for cleaning and repairing the facilities, on top of inspections and purchasing insurance.

A council spokesperson said: “We are more than happy to offer any advice on issues such as inspections and insurance.”

Council bosses have launched a public consultation on the proposed closures and communities are being invited to voice their opinions, as well as being given the opportunity to maintain their play facilities.

Throughout June, the council’s decision to decommission smaller play parks around the region was discussed locally at each of the five area partnerships. The report details plans to remove play equipment from sited deemed “low value, obsolete or largely surplus to community requirements.”

But Councillor Heather Anderson (SNP, Tweeddale West) said some of the play parks being deemed obsolete are in fact well used by local youngsters.

She said: “Notification is not the same as consultation, and there was no consultation process prior to the announcement of the proposed closures, which include 74 parks.

“Some of the parks are still well used, and when I visited one of the parks in Innerleithen that is set to close, there were ten children playing there.

Families should not have to drive to take their children to their nearest swing or chute.”

The closure plans come in the wake of a £5 million investment announced last year to construct new, larger facilities in the Borders – including Peebles, Galashiels, Stow and Harestanes.

Executive member for neighbourhoods and locality services, Sandy Aitchison, has defended the closure proposals.

He said: “We believe we are investing in improving the right facilities in the right places but welcome further feedback on the proposals before a final decision is to be taken.”

SBC leader Shona Haslam claims the investment is “providing modern, inclusive and fantastic play parks and outdoor spaces for our communities”. She added: “By reducing our overall number of play parks, but still retaining the national average, we can make sure our remaining facilities are maintained to the highest standard.”

Locals have until until August 19 to give feedback online at www.scotborders.gov.uk