PLAYGROUND equipment could be removed from Inis Ealga, residents have been warned.
In a letter to residents from Clare County Council, it as stated that the Inis Ealga Residents Playground Development Group received an offer of grant assistance for a playground on the main green area of the estate in 2007.
According to the letter the playground development group undertook to comply with conditions of the Community Playground Grant Scheme but have failed to comply with some of these since.
It states that safety standard inspection reports haven’t been received since May 2009, while up to date insurance details haven’t been provided.
While one of the conditions was that the playground development group need to own the site outright or have a lease of 21 years or more, the site in question is owned by the council and efforts to progress the lease haven’t succeeded.
The letter lists six duties to be carried out by a committee and it also states “a playground development committee is not in place to carry out these duties”.
It says that any proposals to provide a resolution would have to be made by a re-established development committee with a membership of five to ten members.
The letter concludes by stating, “Proposals must be made in writing and received no later than March 31, 2011. Unless a satisfactory resolution is in place by then, the council will have no option but to proceed with the removal of the equipment and restore the ground for use as a green area.”
The council’s approach was criticised by Councillor Cathy McCafferty. “I find it very disturbing that the council is threatening to remove playground equipment from its own housing estate. I first became aware of this issue in early 2010 when a resident from Inis Ealga came to me sick with worry saying she was being pressurised by the council to undertake responsibility for this playground.
“It appeared to me that the building of the playground was supposed to have been conditional on a residents’ association entering into a contract with the council to take responsibility for certain matters which are referred to again in this letter. In the event the playground was built and no such contract was ever entered into by the residents. Contrast this with the Tír na nÓg playground that is funded by an annual grant for Shannon Town Council.”
The Sinn Féin representative was critical of town manager, Bernadette Kinsella. “Residents are faced with a demand that they bow down to the town manager’s wishes or else the children’s playground will be removed and returned to a green area. Effectively the manager, having spent €80,000 on the playground is now threatening to spend more taxpayers money into tearing it down. That to me is ridiculous. As far as I’m concerned, I would be in favour of the residents of Inis Ealga being afforded the very same terms for their playground as exists for Tír na nÓg. No more, no less.”
Councillor Gerry Flynn was also of the same opinion. “Inis Ealga is a county council estate and this threat by Clare County Council to remove equipment from the playground would have a very negative impact on the development of the community. The least that Clare County Council could do is to offer residents of Inis Ealga a similar arrangement as that which is in place for the Tír na nÓg
playground in Shannon. I will strongly oppose this threat to residents in Inis Ealga by Clare County Council.”
However Clare County Council told The Clare Champion that many playgrounds are managed by residents, while they said they weren’t putting residents under severe pressure.
“The terms of the playground grants scheme require each committee or residents group who wish to avail of a grant to accept responsibility for the ongoing management and maintenance of the playground, including providing insurance cover and ongoing safety inspections. Twenty seven playground committees or residents groups around the county were awarded grants on acceptance of the conditions of the scheme.
The residents at Inis Ealga are now being afforded an opportunity to reactivate their committee and ensure compliance with the conditions of the grant scheme and a reasonable time has been given to facilitate this.”
The council also claimed that it would be available to support the establishment of a residents association for the estate. “The council’s estate management team has facilitated the establishment of 42 residents association throughout the county and works closely with them on an ongoing basis the maintenance and management of their estates. The council would welcome the opportunity to work with interested residents in reactivating a Residents Association at Inis Ealga.”