PLAY areas across Somerset will have to go without new equipment for a full year as part of cost-cutting measures at County Hall.

Somerset Council declared a financial emergency in early-November 2023 and published more than £35m of proposed savings as it struggles to bridge a budget gap of £100m.

As part of the savings, the council is proposing that no new play equipment will be installed at any Somerset play areas until April 2025, unless it can be funded by third parties (such as charities or housing developments).

The proposal, and others, are expected to be approved by the full council when it meets to set the annual budget in late-February.

New play areas within housing developments are typically secured through legal agreements with the developer (known as Section 106 agreements), with the company providing funding for the initial equipment and setting further funds aside for maintenance.

Some play areas are managed by Somerset Council, while others are the responsibility of the relevant town or parish council.

Somerset Council said that the pause on new equipment would save £168,000 and would not put children and young people at risk.

A spokesman said: “Throughout 2024/25, no new play equipment will be installed unless it is externally funded.

“A play area maintenance budget will remain to repair dangerous equipment only.”

As part of the budget consultation, the council has been speaking to town and parish councils about taking on more responsibilities, including over the maintenance of play areas and the provision of new equipment.

Frome Town Council has been working with the Bristol-based Green Play Project to create a new play area at The Old Showfield on Berkley Road, which is expected to open during the Easter holidays.

Councillor Mark Dorrington said: “The work done to date is already making a difference, but the weather has been unusually wet for an unusually long time, so it needs a little more time for the plants and grasses to get established.

“We’re now planning to take down the Heras fencing and return this fantastic and much-improved space to the community in time for the school Easter holidays.”

Rob Holden, environment manager at Frome Town Council, added: “We know how keen people are to get in and use the new play area and we’re just as keen to open it for you.

“However, by waiting just a few more weeks, we give the planting scheme time to do its job. In the meantime, we’re completing the new fence and laying a natural hedge, making it a secure play space for youngsters.”

The council’s corporate and resources scrutiny committee will debate the current budget proposals in Bridgwater on Friday (February 2).

Revised proposals will come before the executive in Taunton on February 7, with the final decision being taken by the full council in Bridgwater on February 20.