Adventure Playgrounds

Wandsworth Council were forced by public opinion to backtrack on their original idea for "Pay to Play". However, they now pursuing this by the back door.  Despite their claim that the new Battersea Park Playground will be replacing the "old" structures, the adventurous bit will be separated off and will be put out to contract.  It is almost certain that whoever gets to rent the space will charge for its use.  The part which is open and freely accessible will only be suitable for young children.  

One O'clock clubs:  All but 3 One O'clock clubs will be closed and will become "children's centres", under the Government's scheme, which was put across as being a NEW initiative to give all 2 year olds 15 hours a week care.  Whoever is given the contract will be able to charge for "stay and play".  Thus an initiative which was publicised as increasing access is actually decreasing access as well as costing more.

The One O'Clock club building at Battersea Park will be transformed into a commercial "child friendly" cafe.

We are running a new petition against the reintroduction of charging for play facilities.  It can be signed here


Battersea Park video by Sandra Munoz-Alvarez

YouTube Video by Lois Davis
















Despite the bitter cold, the protesters stayed for 20 days before being evicted and we thank them for their help in making so many people aware of and support our campaign.  The Council, very shortsightedly, failed to use the opportunity presented to them and wasted the time spreading lies and disinformation in an attempt to discredit the protesters.  The Council have misjudged the intelligence of the vast majority of people: the numbers signing the petition has continued to increase steadily; many local people kept the protesters supplied with food; overwhelmingly the protest received support, including from some Friends of Battersea Park, despite the public statement made by the Chair.

The report of the eviction can be read here.  

Points made by Wandsworth Against Cuts:
  1. The Council has ignored all attempts by a variety of different groups of people to find a sensible compromise between the Council’s wish to destroy the Adventure Playground and the public’s view that it should remain (as evidenced by their survey and the increasing numbers of signatures on the petition)
  2. The council has attempted to discredit those who occupied the playground by posting notices that they were urinating and defecating in the playground, had built a fire hole, were destroying structures, etc. The police entered the site and confirmed this to be a lie.  The fire pit had been constructed long ago when the Adventure was in operation, the occupiers were using a sanilav and collecting rubbish in bags. 
  3. The Council tried unsuccessfully to get public opinion on their side by closing the One O’clock club and the small children’s playground, although the protesters posed no threat and had put up screening.  The small children's playground is still closed and notices claim it is a "hard hat area" which, presumably, means the closure was always intended whilst the demolition took place.  There is doubt about the future of the One O'Clock club.  Information given to WAC suggests it is due to be closed in February.
  4. The police and/or Council further tried to gain public support by closing 4 access point to the park on the grounds that they claim it was a “crime” scene.  We are unaware of any crime having been committed (other than the Council's!) and no-one has been charged with any offence.
  5. They are now trying to justify their behaviour by claiming that the huts have been trashed. This is the latest in their attempts to discredit the opposition to their plans. The windows were smashed by those evicting the occupiers and poor video footage indicates that at the time of the eviction the hut was in shipshape condition.
Message from Jan Cosgrove, National Secretary of Fair Play for ChildrenYou tube video made by young people: Link
You tube link of children interviewed at Clapham Junction: Link
A child's view: 
"You have no idea how many hearts you are breaking! The reason why teenagers are killing themselves is because there aren't much parks like this, so by closing this there will be nothing for children to do. So THANK YOU for ruining children's FUN!" -  Cassian (Age 12)


Levi Roots and members of So Solid Crew give their support to the campaign
They remember their time on the playgrounds and the help the staff gave them.  

see the other testimonials.   

Staff on Adventure Playgrounds help with lost or injured children in "safe" play areas.

For more information and how you can help click here and to be kept up to date: 

October Update
The arranged meeting between Kids Company and Wandsworth was cancelled at short notice by Wandsworth.  No reason was given.
September Update
August Update
We understand that Kids' Company has put a proposal to the Council which would retain the Adventure Playgrounds.  Let us hope the Councillors see sense.
Without you, we cannot persuade the Council to change its mind!!

Copy of an unsolicited email received by WAC:
As a 46 year old mother who was born and bred in this country, I am disgusted by the cuts being made with regards to activities for the young generation. It is abysmal that children are being pushed to the side. I remember as a youth there were always activities available for children during the school holidays which, I may add, were free of charge.  The children were kept off the streets and entertained. It is a shame that the government no longer value the youth of today and wish to close anything which concerns them and then they want to blame the youth for their lack in doing anything but causing "problems" or looking "aggressive" in "gangs" on the street. These children have nothing else to do but stand on the corners of road and in their innocence being accused of looking/being intimidating - the Government have a lot to answer for, where is our Tax money/Council Tax really going?


UPDATE

Redundancy notices have been issued to play leaders.  Note that this was ahead of the Council meeting!  So much for democracy.  The Agenda for the Council meeting is here.

A councillor suggested that parents should take their children to the playground.  A 1-hour survey at Battersea park gave the following return:

41 children altogether:
2 aged 8
3 aged 10
1 aged 11
9 aged 12
11 aged 14
7 aged 15
8 aged 16

It may be that the issue has been decided - we do not know what the Kids' Company is doing.  We do know that the majority party rejected an amendment to hold fire until alternatives had been investigated properly.

There is still time to appeal to local councillors individually.  It may make them rethink , if not this issue, but other issues.  Councillors email addresses here

Education and Childrens' Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, 20th June 2012

The Committee listened to brilliant deputations arguing strongly for the retention of staffing on the 3 adventure playgrounds.  In particular, they heard from 2 teenage users who described both the fears they had, if the staffing were to be removed, and the inspiration and support they had been given by the staff.  Sadly, this did not move the majority party members of the committee and the proposal to pull down Battersea Park Adventure and replace it with equipment similar to that at Holland park was voted through.  See the testimony of Mat Whitley about Holland Park.

Read More


WHAT CAN YOU DO?


Sign the petition on line:    Sign Here on our Website (The petition was presented on 20th but others have added their names since then and we are keeping it open).


Contact Councillors, particularly those in wards most affected by the proposals: Southfields, Earlsfield, St Mary's Park, Queenstown.  Details Here


Background to proposals

Battersea Park

The Council's proposals are to pull down the existing Adventure structures (ie the home made ones) and replace them with something similar to those at Holland Park, there would be no staffing.  However, Holland Park is not as challenging and does not attract the older children.  Without staffing, there would be no organised extra activities.  The local secondary school has the highest level of deprivation in the borough.


Kimber Road

It is proposed to pull down the Adventure structures and increase the size of the skate park.  It is argued that this will not need staffing.  The Adventure is already quite small but is favoured by local children.  The skate park attracts young people from outside the area.  For these there is a new skate park on Clapham Common.

York Gardens

Unbelievably, this Adventure is not open on a Saturday - the day you would have thought was most important.  The proposal is to remove the structures and hand most of the land and buildings over to the One O'clock Club.  All that would be left for teenagers would be one zip wire and a couple of other tame bits.  No adventure, no risk, no staff.  The neighbouring estate has high rise blocks with high crime levels and drug dealing and very little for teenagers to do.  Comments by young people in the area is that this would mean that York Gardens would become a no-go area and would be taken over by drug dealers.  It should be noted that this Adventure Playground serves the area of Wandsworth with greatest deprivation.  The neighbouring primary school and local secondary school have the highest levels of deprivation in the borough in their intake. 


June Update


Help leaflet

Make your voice heard


April Update


The council seem unable to understand the role of the play leaders.  There are so many arguments in favour of retaining the leaders, it is hard to know where to begin.  However, just a few of the reasons are:

  • the leaders prevent older children from "taking over"
  • the leaders are on hand to resolve disputes
  • the leaders support young people who may be under pressure to commit crime
  • the leaders, by being able to deal with accidents, are able to encourage adventure.  Without the leaders the equipment has to be too 'safe', but if accidents happen no adult may be on hand to deal with them.
  • the Council maintain that parents can supervise, but what about parents who have a child wanting to do homework on the 10th floor of a block and another who needs to get out and run around?
Over many years, we have seen how the adventure playgrounds are able to turn young peoples' lives around.  Adults who used the playgrounds as young people repeatedly say this.  The playgrounds have been vital to their development into responsible adults and caring parents.

Bear in mind that Wandsworth Council is also proposing the sale of 4 acres of playing fields at Elliott School, in order to fund a building they have allowed to fall into serious and dangerous disrepair.

The following comment on the Huffington Post by Jan Cosgrove of Fair Play for Children demonstrates how unfair the cuts are.  Wandsworth is not the exception.
Fair Play for Children (www.fairplayforchildren.org):  Freedom of Information Request re Council expenditure in 2009-10, 10-11, 11-12.

Overall Council expenditure in 11-12 was 93% compared 10-11. Leisure expenditure (mainly adult) was 91% (and this was 10% of overall spend|)

On children's play: Read whole Huffington Post comment
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February Update


Very depressingly, a paper is being put to the Council to argue for money to be spent on the Battersea Park, York Gardens and Kimber Road Adventure Playgrounds in order to be able to remove staffing:  Read here


It is very clear that whoever has put together this report has no concept of the importance of the role of the playleaders.  Funny how the Councillors seem to have enough money for their own vanity projects whilst insisting that they need to make cuts elsewhere.


January Update


The Wandsworth Guardian contacted WAC with news that Wandsworth Council were planning to close all 3 Adventure Playgrounds - Battersea Park, York Road and Kimber Road.  We have been unable to confirm if this is true or if the story that the hours will be cut is true.  (This was October)

read article


We now hear that the Council is "consulting" on spending £200,000 on the Battersea Park Playground and will then run it without staffing,  read press release


WAC's response to this is:


Before Christmas many members of the public attended the Council meeting which was opened with a Christian prayer.  WAC's view is that Wandsworth Council has should be practising what it preaches.


If Wandsworth Council are seriously thinking of saving money by removing staffing from any or all its Adventure Playgrounds then either its councillors have no understanding of the job of a playleader or they are cynically providing a recruiting office for drug pushers and gang leaders.  Combined with their council tenant eviction policy and their wish to bring back council house sales, this amounts, at best, to social cleansing and, at worst, gerrymandering.  If the Council wish to create a Brighter (and happier) Borough, they should add the social consequences of their actions into their balance sheets.


Perhaps the councillors should spend time getting hands on real experience, rather than just posing for photoshoots.


Battersea Park Adventure - Pay to Play campaign

Report on the deputation by Jill D'Cruz


A deputation to the Council was put together at very short notice.   3 of the mums from WOW (Women of Wandsworth) managed to go . Two mums were in the public gallery – along with 3 little boys. I sat with Hadas when she made her presentation. She was brilliant and delivered a very heartfelt and personal speech against the charges and what a terrible effect they would have on families living near the park, living in cramped accommodation and without any outdoor space. She talked about the stimulation the park provided, the learning, the challenge, the feelings of achievement, the positive effects on health.

 

I think the committee were visibly moved by what she said, and how she said it  – for a moment or two – but quickly fell back on ‘it’s only a pilot’.

It was very clear that whatever anybody had said, they were going to go ahead with their pilot and that this was their get out clause. Councillor Simon Hogg  presented the petition and made a plea against charges. A couple of the Labour Councillors obviously also challenged it but it felt like a fait accompli before the meeting started.  There were questions about the e-petition but some sarcastic remarks about the signatories being from places like Versailles and Toronto. I think just over 50% were from Londoners.

 

After the meeting the mums were discussing what next, should they boycott the playground. I think a lot of thinking has to go into how to continue this campaign.




(It should be noted that there was no comment about the location of the signatories to the petition in favour of the Bolingbroke Academy, the majority of which either did not put a location or where outside the area and, even,

 also overseas. Ed.)


http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2011/may/13/playground-charge-free-play

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/2011/05/13/tories-blasted-for-charging-kids-to-use-public-playground-115875-23126656/

http://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk/news/9045690.Education_Secretary_calls_for_playgrounds_to_be_free/


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