MORE than £1 million in government grants promised to improve play facilities in Dorset have been withdrawn – leaving dozens of projects on hold.

Just a week after he pulled the plug on the Building Schools for the Future programme, new education secretary Michael Gove has suspended the government Playbuilder scheme.

It was worth £615,000 to Bournemouth council this year and £610,000 to Borough of Poole. Dorset County Council is expecting to lose £262,000.

In a letter to local authorities Mr Gove said: “Play has to make its contribution to tackling the deficit along with other important programmes.”

The Department for Education is now reassessing the schemes, with a view to confirming the “revised” grant allocations by August.

Without the funding Poole has had to put 11 projects on hold – and 10 have been suspended in Bournemouth.

A scheme to create a junior play area at Littledown Park in Bournemouth will still go ahead because the council is contractually committed to it.

And a scheme planned for Springbourne Park, which is a wider parks project, will probably still go ahead.

Dorset County Council is expecting to complete six projects where work has already begun, while seven more are on hold.

The news is a blow to communities told to expect the improvement works over the next financial year – and will put yet more pressure on local council’s stretched budgets.

Cllr Peter Adams, cabinet portfolio holder for leisure at the Borough of Poole, said: “The uncertainty is extremely disappointing, particularly for the children and families in Poole that are so looking forward to improved facilities. However, in a time of severe financial needs, it is unclear at present if we will receive any further funding.”

Michael Rowland, park policy manager at Bournemouth council, said the council had limited funds of its own to spend on playgrounds so projects would have to be either scaled back or prioritised.

And councils could end up further out of pocket as it remains unclear if the government will refund them for the cash they have already spent on the schemes so far this year.

Bournemouth council has already spent around £48,000 on Playbuilder projects, and Poole has already incurred £17,000 expenses.

Bournemouth projects on hold:

• Mountbatten Gardens

• Churchill Gardens

• Durley Chine

• Knyveton Gardens

• Mandale Road

• Muscliff Park

• Queens Park

• Seafield Gardens

• Winton Recreation Ground

Poole projects on hold:

• Pergin Recreation Ground

• Belben Road

• Fenner’s Field

• Selkirk Close

• Millfield

• Charter Road

• Broadstone Recreation Ground

• Halstock Crescent

• Parkway in Puddletown Crescent

• Scott Road

• Hatchard’s Field