SHROPSHIRE Council has been accused of trying to offload its responsibility for playgrounds described as 'unsafe'.
The council has been undertaking a programme of transferring facilities to town and parish councils since the unitary authority was set up four years ago.
In the latest move it is claimed that it is trying to get Ludlow Town Council to take over play areas for children that, it is being alleged, are in poor condition and in some cases unsafe.
Opponents of the move say that there is a catch which is there is no cash to help with upkeep and much of the play equipment is in a poor state.
Vivienne Parry, who sits on both Shropshire Council and Ludlow Town Council, said the transfer would leave people living in the town having to pick up the bill.
"I know Shropshire has financial problems but trying this is a rather brazen attempt to offload these 12 sites and their attendant costs on to the ratepayers of Ludlow,” said Cllr Parry.
"Not only are they not offering to help with costs but the sites themselves are in poor shape. I know of only one site - Tollgate Road - which has had any new equipment since the new council was established in 2009.
“Much of the equipment is rapidly ageing and some of the grounds are also in very poor shape. The site on Fishmore Road, for example, was built on an old tip and glass and other debris is starting to come to the surface.
"In this day and age, play equipment needs to be regularly upgraded and rigorously inspected. ROSPA (Royal Society for the Preventation of Accidents) strongly advise a monthly inspection by a specialist with daily checks by ground staff. All this would cost the town a great deal of cash.
"Ludlow Town Council rejected Shropshire Council’s initial approach recently and I for one am keen that it stays that way.”
She said that it is essential that children have a safe environment in which to play and that it is not acceptable for them to be neglected.
“I am concerned that if Ludlow Town Council took over some of the play areas and a child was injured then there could be a very big compensation claim,” said Cllr Parry.
But she says that it is not just safety that matters but also ensuring that the environment is clean and suitable for play.
Ludlow Town Council is responsible for the Wheeler Road play area, that hosts the annual Youth Festival, where there is a stake park. The town council also has plans to work with young people on providing a ‘graffiti wall’ at the park.
Since Shropshire Council was set up in May 2009 there has been a transfer of facilities including public toilets to town and parish councils.
Ludlow Town Council will also take over much of the museum that is it is planned will transfer to The Buttercross before the end of the year.
Shropshire Council has confirmed that the transfer of play areas to Ludlow Town Council has broken down.
They say that the play areas are regularly checked for safety.
“Shropshire Council's Outdoor Recreation Team have been talking to Ludlow Town Council about them taking on play areas and public open spaces managed by Outdoor Recreation within Ludlow,” said Cllr Gwilym Butler, cabinet member for leisure, libraries and culture
“However, on March 17, the town’s full council rejected a proposal to take over the management and maintenance of these sites. Therefore the sites will remain with Shropshire Council.
“With regards to the play area safety, they are checked every two weeks to ensure they are safe to use and action any repairs that may need doing. We do recognise, however, that some of the play equipment is old and may need to be removed in the future, once they are deemed unsafe for use.”