Caithness members supported in their call for a Highland-wide Playground Strategy
13th September 2021
At the meeting of The Highland Council Members supported a starred item put forward by Caithness Members.
The Thurso and North West Caithness and the Wick and East Caithness Ward Councillors asked that the Council creates and implements a Council wide playground strategy that considers the needs and expectations of communities and supports the active play, well-being and social activity of children and their families.
Earlier this year the Scottish Government announced national funding over the life of the parliament for play areas. Officers have engaged with the Scottish Government and Cosla and it is now known that the allocation for 21/22 has been confirmed as £5m nationally. The Highland Council's allocation is £234,000 (4.68%) and will be paid as part of the General Capital Grant. The allocation criteria for the first phase of funding is 95% on population 0-14 years of age and 5% on rurality. The phasing of the £55m allocation over the remaining years is yet to be determined.
At its January 2021 meeting the Council agreed to devolve decisions about play areas to area committees, for a review of local provision, agree next steps and to identify a range of local funds to help make the change required, including additional ward discretionary grant in 2021/22 to reduce the four harms of Covid. Local discussions have been taking place between members and officers and in some places with community bodies. The Caithness Committee already agreed to allocate up to £40,000 for each of the two wards in the area (£80,000 in total) towards play park refurbishment/repairs/improvements with an emphasis on those parks in a rural setting, with a view to seeking match funding from local grant providers and local groups to complement this allocation.
These discussions and reviews are taking place in all Council areas.
The Executive Chief Officer for Communities and Place Carron McDiarmid said "Local reviews of playparks are currently underway with Members and officers working to identify investment priorities for playparks in each area. This will help inform the development of a Highland-wide strategy and the basis for the allocation of the £234,000 capital grant made available this year. A report with proposals will be presented to Communities and Place Committee in November with options for allocating the £234,000 across Highland."
Representing the Caithness Members who had put forward the starred item Councillor Willie Mackay said: “We were delighted to get the support of all members in our proposal for a comprehensive Highland-wide playground strategy and we look forward to working closely with officers in moving forward. The benefits of active play among our young people cannot be underestimated. We need to do all we can to provide the investment needed so young people in our communities have facilities they can enjoy for years to come.”
The Highland Climate Change Conference is taking place on Thursday 21 and Friday 21 October 2021. Chair of Highland Council's Climate Change Working Group, Cllr Trish Robertson, said: "The conference is a fantastic opportunity to bring people together from across and beyond Highland to discuss the climate and ecological emergency.
Members of the Audit and Scrutiny Committee (which took place yesterday, Thursday 23 September) were presented with a report outlining the areas of work which have been undertaken by Highland Council's Internal Audit section since the Committee’s previous meeting during June 2021. Of the five audit reports considered, three were given the audit opinions of significant assurance or full assurance.
The high point of the year for celebrating our heritage starts on Saturday 25 September. For three weeks, the Highland Archaeology Festival will offer a range of walks, talks, workshops, exhibitions, and activities for all ages.
Zero Waste Scotland has launched a digital recycling tool to help combat confusion and meet Scottish recycling targets. This Recycle Week (20-26 September 2021), Zero Waste Scotland is launching the first ever Recycling Sorter.
The Highland Council's resilient digital learning estate continues to connect and support learners and educators across Highland, including the creation of a new digital toolkit for teaching staff. Education Chair, Cllr John Finlayson said: "The extensive digital learning estate available across Highland for staff, pupils, parents and carers is an effective way to empower and develop digital opportunities across Highland schools.
Members of the public are being invited to comment on a Draft Gambling Policy Statement for the coming years 2022-25. The Highland Council is consulting on the draft policy statement on behalf of The Highland Licensing Board under the Gambling Act 2005.
Members at a meeting on 9 September 2021 of the Highland Council agreed the scope, budget, phasing and timescale for 5 priority school projects including Beauly Primary, Culloden Academy, Dunvegan Primary, Park Primary, and St Clements School. It was also agreed that these projects are to be incorporated into the Council's current capital programme.
Given the importance of tourism to the Highland economy and the need for the tourism experience to be positive for visitors and communities, members have agreed to extend the Visitor Management Plan funding into the 2022 season by a one-off investment of £1.5m. A one-off Visitor Management Plan investment of £2.4m agreed by the Council in March 2021 for this year's season has enabled a range of service improvements.
On behalf of The Highland Council, High Life Highland has this week advertised a tender and invitation to quote seeking creative filming and photography input to the Inverness Castle - Spirit of the Highlands project. The tender and invitation to quote will contribute to Spirit:Journeys, a natural and cultural heritage initiative that will deliver many benefits for local communities, helping to unlock economic potential and improve visitor experiences across the region.
Artists and craft makers across the Highlands, Moray and the Western Isles can apply for bursaries of up to £750 for their creative development. The Visual Artist and Craft Makers Awards (VACMA) are funded by Creative Scotland in partnership with Inverness Museum and Art Gallery (IMAG) and can support artists at all stages of their career.