THE revised McJerrow Park plans have taken a “big step forward” with a “good viable project on the table”.
That’s what Lockerbie trustee Oliver Mundell MSP said to a large group at a public meeting in the town hall last week.
The meeting was set up after the Lockerbie Trust decided to pull funding for the park revamp and instead gift the remaining money to three charitable causes.
The shock news led to an outpouring of criticism from townsfolk and the trust quickly performed a U-turn and are now making nearly £500,000 of funds available to Dumfries and Galloway Council for them to take forward a revised park project within the next three months.
And at the meeting Mr Mundell told the public that after speaking with Dumfries and Galloway Council leader Gail Macgregor that there’s “a firm commitment from both sides to get this project over the line”.
He added: “The project that we’re going to take forward includes a pump track, a MUGA, gym equipment, a bandstand and a children’s water play area.
“We’re hopeful that can get taken forward fairly quickly. There will be some match-funding involved in delivering the project in full. There’s already been some productive conversations on that matter.”
Mr Mundell also stated he “understood” that many of the townsfolk would be “angry” with what has happened over the past two weeks.
He said: “I think we can all agree this is a big step forward with a good viable project on the table. It wasn’t the intention to upset people.
“We feel that we should make ourselves available and accountable to the public.
“We’ve agreed with the council that they are going to put forward a revised plan.”
Members of the community also wondered how the trust had managed to get the funds back from the three charities after Mr Mundell claimed it wouldn’t be possible.
He explained: “When we updated the community council, we – in good faith – understood that the transfers had been arranged by our accountant on September 5.
“But due to some issues around getting bank details and ongoing due diligence in relation with the projects, the money had not left the account. Therefore, it opened up the possibility of reconsidering. It’s fortunate that had happened and created the opportunity for this.
“If payments had gone out, I would’ve been having some difficult discussions with the organisations that we had chosen to support because of the level of public feeling about this.”
The trust present – including Mr Mundell and trust and community council chairwoman Jan Andrews – did receive more criticism from parts of the public at the meeting, with one calling their previous actions “abhorrent”.
More wondered why the public consultation results from many months ago had not been made public.
Mr Mundell said: “The consultation has been shared with councillors but not with the public.
“Our principal concerns were personal comments that people didn’t quite understand would be going into the public domain.”
But he did reveal that the most popular aspects for the park included the pump track and the least popular were the bandstand and the now scrapped memorial cairn.
Mr Mundell also maintained that if the council for some reason don’t meet the three month deadline then they wouldn’t immediately pull the funding and hoped the project could begin next spring.
He added: “I think another meeting is needed with the public and hopefully it will be regular.
“With weather through the winter we have to be realistic of when the project can start. Hopefully the shovels can be going into the ground into the early spring. But that’s now in the hands of the council.
“From our point of view, the remaining trust funds are available to pay for that work.
“The council are best able to deliver this project and deliver it the quickest.
“I don’t want this to languish around anymore than it is. If the deadline slips we won’t be pulling the funding.
“I’m excited about this project, we’ve been given a firm commitment on maintenance to make sure the park is looked after.”