A MAJOR row has erupted over newly installed play equipment in a Golspie play park.
Householders at Ross Street claim the £20,000 Timberplay multi-activity unit, which was only officially unveiled a fortnight ago, has been placed too near their homes and as a result they are suffering from noise intrusion and an invasion of their privacy.
Recently elected councillor Graham Phillips, one of three councillors in the East Sutherland and Edderton Ward, has been drawn into the row and is insisting the equipment must be moved.
But he in turn has come under furious fire from the Golspie Tower Play Park Association who claim he is handling the issue badly and has only inflamed the situation.
Secretary Catriona McQueen said: “As a committee, we’ll be fighting any attempt to move the new play equipment.”
The play area, which lies to the back of Ross Street has been in existence for some years.
It belongs to Highland Council but is leased to the play park association. The authority maintains the equipment, cuts the grass and covers the public liability.
The major part of the funding for the new wooden climbing equipment was donated by the Kilbraur Wind Farm Community Benefit Trust.
Trouble began shortly after it was officially opened at the start of the school holidays.
Three nearby householders, whose homes are just yards away from the new unit, complained to Councillor Phillips about noise continuing well into the night. It is understood they all also complained about foul language.
All three households were contacted by The Northern Times but said they were reluctant to be identified for fear of reprisals.
However, one householder commented: “The first night after it opened was just awful and the noise didn’t stop until 3.30am.
“The play equipment is meant to be for the use of children aged 12 and under but it is attracting older teenagers who hang out there well into the early hours. Their language is foul and their actions unpleasant.”
Councillor Phillips confirmed he had been contacted by angry residents.
He said: “I’ve been receiving complaints from numerous Ross Street residents about loss of privacy and excessive noise – far greater than you would normally expect from children at play.
“There have also been complaints about disturbances as late as 3am with the police being called.
“Anybody fair-minded has to conclude that it’s a great idea, just in the wrong place.”
He said he had looked into the situation and conceded that informal discussions were held with planning officials about the siting of the play equipment for which planning consent is not required.
However he said that normally a sketch plan is provided to planners but that this had not been done in this instance.
He said: “There’s a general consensus now that the equipment’s going to have to be moved, though I realise that some people disagree.
“I and my fellow councillors are looking into how we can help the committee achieve that. Once we have worked that out, we will invite committee members and residents to a meeting to agree on new siting.”
Catriona McQueen said: “Members of the association are sickened by this. We’ve gone out of our way to provide this for the youngsters in the village and three households are not happy so it must all change.
“They are complaining about noise and also that youngsters using the equipment can see into their windows. Well we all live in a council house scheme and no-one’s house has total privacy. The homes of those who complained face onto a play park.
“Also none of the complainers have ever approached the committee.”
She pointed out that at no point during the preparation of the ground and installation of the equipment had any concern been voiced by any Ross Street residents.
Ms McQueen said it would cost in the region of £6500 to move the equipment under warranty and she understood Councillor Phillips had offered to pay for this out of his ward discretionary budget.
“I don’t see how using public money in this way can be justified,” she said.
She added: “I just think there is a better way for Councillor Phillips to go about this. All he has done is cause a lot more animosity between the committee and residents.
“Instead of calming the situation, he has stirred it up. A meeting between all of us would have been an idea instead of telling us it has to go. Why not just give it three months to see what happens?
“I think things will settle down. At the moment it’s a novelty and the nights are bright. In three months time the nights will be getting dark and things will be different.
“Councillor Phillips just went in with steel toe caps on and to my mind acted like God Almighty saying it will have to be moved.”
Ms McQueen said the committee now intended to call a public meeting to discuss the issue.