After consultations with local youth through Community Learning & Development and engagement at Lochgelly High School in 2014-16, young people rejected proposals for a skate park in Lochgelly. Their rejection was well publicised in the Central Fife Times from 2014. Cllr Hood and his cohorts on Lochgelly Community Council have confirmed publicly that the proposed facilities enjoy little support from local teenagers.
Yet despite this we are now being told by Cllr Hood and his cheerleaders on LCC that youths have been engaged and they now want the skatepark facilities at the Public Park, costing residents £140k. No evidence of this engagement has been provided, nor is it recorded in any publicly available minutes. This significant outlay comes at a time when Labour is justifying cuts in front-line services, such as £3 million worth of teaching posts, as inevitable following budget cuts imposed by the SNP and Conservative Governments.
A minority of residents is being informed through a closed group on Facebook that the project is due to be completed in April, conveniently before the polling stations open in May. No doubt this will provide ample photo opportunities for the beleaguered Labour candidates. If anyone dares critique the plans, unsurprisingly they are being accused of being political, a common tactic employed to try and silence any dissenting voices.
Reviewing the Community Action Plan which was created through extensive community engagement (including the completion of 432 detailed surveys), I see nothing that identifies the skatepark proposal as a community priority.
The top priority identified by the action plan is to develop a community centre with youth club facilities. Youth facilities also came out top in Fife Council’s recent “Oor bit Fife” project, winning a paltry £10k for the purpose. Imagine what could be built for our young people with a seedcorn budget of £140k? Facilities that would be much more meaningful and significant than the crumbs now being offered.
Of course for the disengaged councillors and community councillors, the wonderful thing about the skatepark is the short-termism of the project. There will be no need to continue to engage and support our young people after it has been built, whereas a proper youth club with mixed facilities would have required a long-term commitment for investing in and working with our youth.
The skatepark proposal is an expensive vanity project, designed to supply positive election publicity for a party which has failed Lochgelly for too long. The only winners here are the company which secures this lucrative contract!