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Spiralling costs and Covid blamed for £750,000 Lochore Meadows playpark delay

There is a delay on the revamp of Lochore Meadows playpark
Work on the replacement playpark has been put back until 2023.

The £750,000 revamp of the playpark one of Fife’s most popular beauty spots, Lochore Meadows, has been delayed until 2023 due to spiralling costs and the impact of Covid.

Funds for the major overhaul of play equipment at Lochore Meadows Country Park were only formally approved by councillors earlier this month, with work due to start in spring.

But now those improvements hang in the balance with Fife Council blaming increased costs of specialist play equipment and the continuing impact of the pandemic on the construction industry.

Major revamp

Councillors had agreed a £500,000 investment into the much needed playpark replacement, with a further £250,000 for infrastructure works to support existing facilities.

Artist impressions of how the improved facilities at the Lochore Meadows playpark might look once completed.

Lochore Meadows is Fife’s most popular free attraction with over 900,000 visitors to the park during 2021.

The Courier revealed in September 2021 how the new park would look once the facilities were installed.

Plans included equipment suitable for people with disabilities will also be installed to make the park more inclusive, as well as retaining and improving the much-loved “volcano hill” and hill slides.

Now the revamp has been put back at least a year after tenders submitted to the council were rejected.

But the local authority has stressed the project will still go ahead, albeit at a later date.

Lochore Meadows Country Park attracted over 900,000 visitors in 2021.

Andy MacLellan, the council’s community projects team manager, said: “We asked interested companies to tender for the playpark replacement work at the end of 2021.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve reviewed the bids received and sadly we’ve not been able to award the work to any of those companies.”

Spiralling costs

He added: “The market for play equipment is quite uncertain just now, which has driven up the costs of the more specialist pieces we wanted at Lochore.

“The construction sector is also feeling pressure, and together with the variability of Covid-19 restrictions, bidding contractors have had to build in the financial risks that they have into their tenders.

“This has resulted in the tenders we’ve received being higher than expected and means we can’t go ahead with the work right now.

“We share the disappointment that people will be feeling at this news, but we’re sure that they’ll understand that we need to make sure we spend wisely too and get the best value for money.

“We’re fully committed to the playpark replacement and will take a bit of time to review the project before putting it back out to tender, with a new target of early 2023 for completion.”

Disappointment expressed

Local councillors have expressed their disappointment at the delay.

Councillor Judy Hamilton, convener of the community and housing services committee which sanctioned the funding, said the delay is “disappointing” but said the council also has a duty to get “value for money”.

She said: “I’m as disappointed by the delay as anyone, especially given the funding has been approved and the project was ready to move forward.

“But with the impact of Brexit and Covid on the construction industry making the current situation volatile, we have seen tenders that have been beyond what was expected.

“We have a duty to get value for money but we also want the replacement park done right.

“The last thing we need is half a job.

“We want a facility that is accessible to children of all abilities and fitting for what is Fife’s most popular park.”

Fellow councillor Lea McLelland also expressed her disappointment at the delay.

“It’s hugely frustrating to learn that the replacement park won’t now be installed until next year,” said the councillor.

“The most important factor is that we have a replacement playpark that is all inclusive and caters for children of all abilities.

“While the delay is disappointing it vital we get the right equipment and the spiralling costs have been a major stumbling block in preventing the project from moving forward.”

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