Long-running play area saga ends after councils agree £230,000 deal
- Credit: IAN BURT
The future of a town's neglected play areas has finally been agreed after a town council accepted a £230,000 settlement deal.
Thetford Town Council will take on the running of 11 play areas in the town after reaching agreement with Breckland Council.
Negotiations have dragged on since 2011, when the town council initially agreed to take on eight areas.
But Breckland's offer of £174,270 as a commuted sum was deemed to be insufficient by the town council.
It also made a wish-list of demands to Breckland for repairs it wanted made to the areas before a handover could take place.
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Breckland refused to make the repairs, and has instead offered a one-off sum of £20,000.
The town council finally agreed to take the £194,270 deal at a meeting on Tuesday.
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It also agreed to take on three more play areas on the newly-built Richard Easten estate, with a commuted sum of £38,500 being paid by Breckland.
With Breckland unwilling to pay for repairs, many play area have since become almost unusable, with facilities including swings, jungle gyms and see-saws now strewn with graffiti or ripped out entirely.
Corinne Fulford, chairman of the town council's amenities committee, said: 'I am very pleased that Thetford Town Council has made the decision to take on 11 play areas in Thetford.
'It is well known that the play areas have been allowed to decline into a dreadful state while under the control of Breckland Council.
'It is a shame that there will not be sufficient funding to refurbish and maintain them all, but it will now allow us to work with the community to ensure that some at least are brought back into order for our young people to enjoy.'
Mark Kiddle-Morris, Breckland's executive member for assets and strategic development, said the move was best for everyone.
'This is what localism is about. It's now for the town council to control what happens at those areas.
'We haven't been able to keep a close watch on the play areas as we're 25 miles from Thetford. Hopefully the members of the town council who are there on the ground can keep an eye on them now,' he said.