Play area future could be resolved

A SMALL play area could be passed into the care of Morpeth Town Council, but negotiations about the run-down facility are ongoing.

The council has been asked to take ownership of the Boundary Park play area in Stobhill as part of the transfer of assets from Northumberland County Council.

For the last nine years the facility, which contains a seesaw and swing, was thought to have been in the hands of the original developer of the estate, but recent investigations into legal documents have found that it had been taken over by the former Castle Morpeth Council and passed to the county authority in the re-organisation of local government.

In line with county policy, the play area should now transfer to the town council, but as it is in a dangerous condition members are reluctant to accept it without funds to repair it.

Chairman of Morpeth Town Council’s Finance and General Purposes Committee David Parker said: “At the moment this is in the ownership of Northumberland County Council as the successor of Castle Morpeth Borough Council and it is anxious to transfer it.

“I’m not that anxious to receive it until we have done some negotiations with the county about the state of it and the costs that might be involved.”

Town Clerk Gillian Turner said the play area received a poor report when it was inspected five years ago and needs new surfacing and equipment.

In addition, a previous resident’s survey found a 50/50 split on whether it should be dismantled or retained.

Coun Nic Best suggested that there may be a dowry attached to the play area from when it was initially transferred to the former borough council that could pay for the necessary repairs.

“If it was inherited through an adoption agreement does it have a dowry, and if it hasn’t been spent can we make a claim?” he said.

“Castle Morpeth had a policy when adopting these things of acquiring money for a five-year maintenance programme.”

The council will make inquiries about the dowry during its negotiations about the facility.

However, members said in principle they will accept the play area.

Coun Les Cassie said: “In principle, we must accept it. We own and manage all the other play areas in the town so we should do the same for this.

“The practical mechanism for taking control will need to play out in the negotiations, but at the end of the day it would be pointless to be not taking it over.”