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'Dated play parks need an upgrade'
PARENTS and opposition councillors are calling for a review of Bicester’s “dated” children’s play parks to bring them in line with those in other towns.
They say play equipment in many parks is old-fashioned and tired, there are no outdoor water play facilities or children’s sandpits, and facilities lag behind other Oxfordshire towns including Banbury, Witney and Abingdon.
Bicester Town Council’s policy chairman James Porter said the town was a victim of “planning policy” that left the authority with 63 parks to maintain.
The council said it costs £200,000 a year to maintain sports pitches, pavilions, open spaces, natures areas and parks in Bicester – £45,000 was spent just on parks.
Previously the town council automatically took over the maintenance of parks from developers when housing estates were built, but new policy means it can be more selective.
The council also confirmed it had a “maximum” of four years’ of developer funding left to maintain parks and outdoor space.
Opposition councillors Les Sibley and Nick Cotter have urged the town council to take the lead on a review of parks, and seek grants and sponsorship to fund new facilities.
Mr Sibley said: “When the budget is set each year we should have community projects where this type of proposal could be debated. We used to. But it has been about keeping the council tax down.
“We need a re-think of the sort of facilities we provide for young people and we need to move it forward.”
Residents support proposals to overhaul play areas.
Danielle Bamber, of Southwold, Bicester, said her family regularly travelled to Abingdon to use play facilities.
She said: “They are making the town better for older children with bowling and the cinema, but they are not doing anything for the younger ones. I think it’s appalling that there’s nothing here.”
Of Bicester’s main park area, Ruby Domican, 15, said: “It’s not a very interesting place to come to.
“If they made it more up to date (young) people would spend more time outdoors rather than on technology.”
Rosina Watts, 62, who was in Garth Park with her three grandchildren, recalled her grown-up daughter using the same equipment when she was small.
Mr Porter said any review could see some of the larger parks modernised and smaller areas closed.
He said: “It’s something we are trying to tackle. It’s already on the agenda.
“It’s one of those things where the town council is able to hopefully influence wider policy and provide better facilities in the future while undertaking a review of the current ones.”
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