LAUGHTER resounded in the Peebles Burgh Chamber last week when SNP Councillor Heather Anderson told members of the community council that the local authority’s administration stated 'we’re not closing playparks, we’re just removing the play equipment'.

The news to decommission 74 small playparks in the Scottish Borders to make way for new state-of-the art play facilities has sparked controversy, not just with opposition councillors, but from families across the region.

Describing the remarks as 'madness', Councillor Anderson challenged comments made by the administration’s executive member for neighbourhoods and locality services, Sandy Aitchison.

Councillor Aitchison said in an email to the Chairman of Peebles Community Council, that SNP Councillor Anderson was 'commenting from the comfort of opposition'.

Councillor Anderson explained: “The reason I’m raising this here was Councillor Aitchison wrote to you explaining the situation and I reacted to his use of the phrase 'we’re not closing the playparks, we’re just removing the play equipment'.

“I responded saying this council has had to deal with librarian-less libraries and we’ve now got play-less playparks. It’s like saying I’ve not made you homeless by removing your house, you can still stand here. That’s the frustration.

“Councillor Aitchison said in his response to you that I was commenting from the comfort of opposition. There’s nothing at all comfortable about being in opposition. This was not a good decision.

"There hasn’t been a consultation and it’s very frustrating that the administration just keep going and they get put in the position of defending a decision to close playparks by saying they’re not closing the play parks, they are removing the play equipment. This is madness.”

Following the announcement of the £5milion investment in destination playparks earlier this year, members were told that 11 smaller playparks would be scrapped in Tweeddale.

But SNP councillors Heather Anderson and Stuart Bell challenged the decision and insisted it go out to consultation.

Councillor Anderson continued: “There was not an allowance for the maintenance of these new play parks so it was delegated to officers to make sure it was a cost neutral programme and they were to come back with recommendations after consultation.

"Now no consultation occurred, there was no report on the consultation because there hadn’t been any. And there was going to be a reference group, but they never met.”

Two petitions with 1000 signatures against the playpark closures have been received by the audit and scrutiny committee of Scottish Borders Council.

Councillor Anderson added: “These petitions were from people in Hawick and Kelso who were frankly furious at the suggestion of closing playparks in their areas.

"The main argument they made that the recommended playparks for closure were quite close to houses and suitable for younger children, so that whole thing of allowing smaller children to play independently, they would be discriminated against.

“There was a lot of questioning of officers and it became clear that we hadn’t been given any information about the costs of maintaining the parks that had been recommended for closure.

"We hadn’t been given any information about how much it would cost to maintain the grass after they decommissioned the park. And, we hadn’t been given alternatives about some of the parks being upgraded whilst others were closed.

“Were we are now the decision is in abeyance. Hopefully when we get back after the election we will be able to say can we actually have a genuine consultation about these playparks with some real numbers about what it would cost."

The future of the small playparks is to come before a full meeting of Scottish Borders Council for consideration.

Chairman Les Turnbull said: “I’m glad to hear what you’re saying about it being in abeyance because my impression of the correspondence that I had from Councillor Aitchison was that ‘we hear what you’re saying but we aren’t listening we’re ploughing on’.

“We did our own consultation and we got 300 responses so he knows the views of the people in Peebles.”