Cash promise for play area as row continues
KEW residents battling to save a local park have received a huge boost after being told it will reopen and receive financial backing from Sefton Council.
The council had announced it would close the play area outside Kew Woods Primary School, in Ovington Drive, but parents quickly launched a campaign group to overturn the decision.
The park had been closed for safety reasons and there were fears for its future after estimates of £50,000 to replace its 30-year-old equipment.
The group now says it has received “incredibly positive news” after meeting Cllr Ian Moncur, the Sefton cabinet member with responsibility for the park and revealed it has received a guarantee of funding from the council.
It came after a meeting at the site between the Kew Woods Playground group and Cllr Moncur, which was described as “a huge leap forward” by the campaigners.
Diane Thomas, one of group’s three organisers, said: “It is a massive relief to know that Sefton Council are unequivocally backing us on this and we are really eager to move this forward.
“We’ve saved the park but that’s not quite the end of it. If the ward councillors also release the money we’ve called for we can replace all the equipment, not just some of it.”
After campaigners asked for assistance Liz Savage, Labour’s 2017 Parliamentary Candidate in the town, and Southport Labour intervened and the council said it could contribute up to £30,000 towards the refurbishment if the Kew Ward councillors would meet the rest from ward funds.
Ward funds are council monies that councillors from each ward have specific control over and accounts presented at Southport Area Committee last month showed Kew Ward had more than £20,000 in its reserves.
Despite repeated requests for help from the campaigners, Kew Ward’s Liberal Democrat councillors, Fred Weavers, David Pullin and Mike Booth, have so far refused to say how much they will release or when, saying that no firm offer had been made by the council.
They have repeatedly said that they cannot commit to spending a certain amount until they know exactly what is needed. They have also promised that the park will get new equipment, but argued that it would be wise to seek external funding rather than simply use council funds.
Speaking at the park, however, Cllr Moncur made it clear that the council would definitely be contributing and said it was now a matter for the ward councillors to decide what they will contribute.
He said: “It will reopen, it is just a matter of the facilities it then has.
“The ward councillors can help their residents or not, depending on how much they contribute.
“If they do not, we’ll still honour our commitment and contribute £30,000 but sadly the equipment can’t be replaced like-forlike then.”
Tracy Burke, one of the other campaigners, told the Visiter: “The delays have caused increased anxiety.
“We were really worried that without the ward funds being released Sefton couldn’t help so to know we have the £30,000 no matter what is a huge relief. They have come good, it’s just a shame our own ward councillors won’t do the same.”
The issue was raised at last month’s Southport Area Committee meeting, with tempers raised and the atmosphere becoming increasingly hostile.
Two of the campaigners who attended on the night have issued an official complaint over their treatment by councillors on the night and the council is also said to be investigating after a councillor was banned from the group’s Facebook page in the days after the meeting.
Nat Glennon, another of the group’s leaders, said: “The way we were treated was not acceptable and neither is the level of misinformation and delay coming from our ward councillors.
“We have a simple message to them: we have waited long enough, say how much you will contribute, say when it will be and say it now.’’
She added: “The children want their playground back and you are the only thing holding us back.”
Sefton Council has closed the playground outside Kew Woods Primary School
An example of a pet-friendly oxygen mask in use