The future provision of local play parks sparked heated exchanges in the Council chamber recently when Fermanagh and Omagh Councillors unanimously agreed not to pass a recommendation to spend £30,000 on an independent review of parks.
“We represent the people and we know better than an independent reviewer what’s needed,” said DUP Councillor David Mahon during the Environmental Services Committee meeting on February 7.
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council (FODC) is set to make a “significant investment” of approximately £1.5 million in its 109 play parks over the next few years. 
The district rate was increased by three per cent last week to allow for an extra £457,000 in reserves to kick start maintenance work, which is due to get underway in Spring 2018.
This work will include the replacement of equipment, fencing and gates and painting work.
Meanwhile, Councillors had been asked to approve the need for an independent review parks and Multi Use Games Areas (MUGAS) and the development of a new parks policy for the future. That strategy would pledge to include more disability friendly equipment in new play parks.
However, Councillors disputed a Position Paper which stated: “The District is currently satisfactorily provided for in play area facilities.”
“We may not have sufficient provision in parts of the county,” said Sinn Féin Councillor John Feely.
They also disagreed with APSE benchmarking statistics which state that FODC’s current provision – 109 play areas for 23,473 children – equates to 4.64 play areas per 1,000 children (compared to a UK average of 4.01 per 1,000 children and a NI average of 2.58 per 1,000 children).
“I have dealt with APSE in the past and I’ve been far from impressed,” said Sinn Féin Councillor Brian McCaffrey.
“If there is a possibility that the [independent reviewer’s] report will be based on these English figures, that certainly doesn’t do anything for the rural area in which we are based – if you start with ambiguity, then surely, we are doomed,” added Sinn Féin Councillor Thomas O’Reilly.
The lengthy discussion also heard Councillors ask what happened to a policy passed before the two Councils amalgamated that every town and village in Fermanagh would receive a MUGA. Brookeborough, Cavanaleck and Kinawley were promised a MUGA which never materialised, the meeting heard.
“This has completely melted my head … I can’t agree to this,” added Sinn Féin Councillor Barry Doherty, who had asked a Council officer where Arney play park is situated and was told the officer did not know.
UUP Councillor Howard Thornton queried why Derrychara play park was never replaced after Tesco was built 11 years ago. 
He also said old playparks such as Killyvilly and Clabby need to disposed of because they are becoming a “burden” and a maintenance issue for the Council.
A Council officer said: “We are bringing in experts to record what best suits our needs” and said the review would investigate all the points they had raised. However, Councillors agreed to hold the recommendation until they received further clarity.
The Impartial Reporter asked its readers which local play parks need a revamp. The replies referred to the Castle Park Centre in Lisnaskea being “horrible and dated”, Trasna Way requiring some work and Fivemiletown needing some swings repaired. Windmill Road was described as “a disgrace,” while it was pointed out that since the removal of Derrychara play park to make way for Tesco, the closest park is the Forum or Killyvilly. Maguiresbridge park was described as “very old and dilapidated,” while others said Lisgoole/Cleenish and Belleek have not been updated “in years.”