Funding for Strathfoyle playpark disabled access and other key projects withdrawn

A view of the new Strathfoyle Peoples Play Park from the official opening back in 2017. DER4117-114KMA view of the new Strathfoyle Peoples Play Park from the official opening back in 2017. DER4117-114KM
A view of the new Strathfoyle Peoples Play Park from the official opening back in 2017. DER4117-114KM
Projects to help disabled children access play parks and other inclusive facilities across Derry & Strabane will not go ahead because deadlines to progress them were missed.

Funding for a range of projectshad been offered by the Department of Communities but that offer has now been rescinded because of the lack of progress, with an extension request denied.

Work on the Strathfoyle play park was expected to get underway this spring after it was announced in November that a £30,000 grant had been secured for new inclusive equipment and surfacing of the park to make it accessible for people with disabilities.

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Members of the Business and Culture Committee were informed by Aeidin McCarter the council’s Arts and Culture Manager, that a Letter of Offer from the Department for Communities had been accepted by the council in February of this year. However, it was required that the money be spent within the 2020/21 financial year which ended on March 31.

McMcCarter explained that officers ‘had sought an extension to the Letter of Offer from DfC’, however, this request was denied.

The Arts and Culture Head added that ‘it has been increasingly challenging, particularly over the procurement.’

Ms McCarter said DfC said there was ‘no scope’ to allow 2020/21 funding to be carried over into the next financial year unless projects are ‘contractually committed’, and the results is that any funding offer which had been made by DfC has now been withdrawn.

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Committee members were told that the DfC had indicated that any projects which are not being supported in the current financial year would be able to ‘resubmit’ for the 2021/22 funding programme.

Projects now unable to continue due to the withdrawal of funding are:

*Inclusive Park Seating – accessible seating in rural and urban settings throughout DCSDC – £30,000

*Alley Theatre – developing an outdoor accessible hub for accessible cultural programming during and beyond Covid – £30,000

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*Strathfoyle Play Park – accessible play park equipment £30,000 

*Castlederg Changing Place toilet provision standard – £20,000 

*The Next Stage: Mobile Outdoor Shelter, Performance Stage and Learning space – £25,000 

*St Columb’s Park Walled Garden – accessible seating for pan disability community – £30,000

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Alliance Councillor Rachael Ferguson spoke of her ‘disappointment we haven’t got through the procurement stage.’

She added: “It’s disappointing for all projects. The likes of the Strathfoyle Play Park was a huge campaign and the young ones were told in November it was successful.

“This is a real upset for them. Why didn’t we meet the deadline, was it a procurement issue because of Covid we didn’t get it over the line before March or was it never going to happen?”

Ms McCarter replied that ‘largely a lot of problems were Covid related’ with many companies ‘not as agile’ and many having staff furloughed due to the pandemic.” 

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UUP Alderman Derek Hussey spoke of his ‘frustration and concern’ that these projects hadn’t made ‘sufficient progress’, asking “where does the buck stop with this?”

Some projects will be able to continue as they have made sufficient progress to meet their deadline and the Department for Communities has issued a revised 2020/21 Letter of Offer of £54,885.

They are the Tower Museum -The story of our city – £16,260

Guildhall Portable accessible staging – £10,000  

Regional Project – Toolkit for Council Accessibility Audits – £28,625

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