Mention the Triangle to local councillors, and you might receive well-worn looks of despair. Essentially, Archbisop Tenison School needed space to expand their play facilities. The school /was/ due to receive money from the Building Future Schools programme which would allow them to provide schooling for an additional 150 boys, and Lambeth Council were left in the slightly awkward position that they would essentially need to sacrifice the Community Playground in order to turn it into a school playground that could be used on an out-of-hours basis by the community. A shared solution was being sought (as at 15/10/2009) according to this FOI request, but since mention of the site still seems contentious, it would appear that no joint solution has been found. I've also found that wading through the documentation on the matter is confusing. The FOI email seems to suggest that Archbishop Tenison needed the space for a car park (Lambeth Council firmly refuted this) and reports from elsewhere seemed to suggest that the site would only be closed temporarily in order to allow the school to complete some building work (which is what seemed to be at issue during the hustings). I am going to assume, unless somebody says to the contrary, that the plan was to give the Triangle Adventure Playground to Archbishop Tension School, and it is this that the Playground committee are objecting to (particularly since many students at the school are not resident in Lambeth).
At the hustings, Kate Hoey appeared to blame Council Officers / council machinery for some of the decisions taken on the project. More recently, the South London Press published an article (KA news blog has a copy here) which suggests that Kate Hoey has written to the Council, asking them to "save" the playground. This is an interesting request, but is perhaps not unachievable, given the recent Lib/Tory pact to abolish the Future for Schools program. If the Archbishop Tension School can't expand, then there's not really much reason to absorb the playground (as Kate Hoey noted) and she has called for the Council to reconsider their decision to close the Triangle.
What's important to note though, is that Kate Hoey has been campaigning for a shared solution (which does appear on the face of it to be common sense). Ms Hoey doesn't want to see the Triangle disappear, nor does she want the school to be deprived of extra play space. But the SLP article notes that,
"a council spokesman said the local authority would still not be renewing the lease when it expires in November."Now surely anybody can see that that is not a good decision. The school cannot expand due to the failure of the Building Future Schools program (which is a very bad thing), but the Triangle Adventure Playground cannot continue because the Council are refusing to renew the lease. Are the Council attempting to de-facto hand the playground to the school, ousting the good work put in on behalf of local children in the 344th (out of 354) most deprived area of child deprivation in the UK? Yes. Councillor Pete Robbins maintains that Lambeth Council are committed to expanding the school and that more space is needed for classrooms and play space (how they'll do this without any money is unknown). I'm not sure whether Lambeth Council fund the Triangle at all, but it's quite clear that Lambeth Council will be cutting youth services, which might have something to do with the decision.
It seems to me that this would be a very good opportunity to start practicing all of this Co-operative Council malarky. I'd have thought that Polly Toynbee (who will sit on the co-op's board), who has always been an advocate for the disenfranchised ought to be concerned about the removal of the playground. Has anybody written to her? I wouldn't personally wish to take on a Toynbee-Hoey coalition! The Triangle are talking about organising a sit-in in November and waiting for forcible removal by bailiffs. Surely it needn't come to that? But if it does, perhaps we can arrange for some of the members of the venerable associations, organisations and adventure playgrounds in the area to at least organise a large enough sit-in that the bailiffs have a difficult task on their hands! If you wish to sign the Triangle Association's petition, you can do so here, but they seem still to be using the misleading information that the site would be turned into a car-park, which from what I can discern is not quite true.
Schools in Lambeth will have to expand, but why not add secondary school places to the borough by using the already existing empty Beaufoy building? A situation in which schools are having to compete with youth facilities for space is completely unacceptable, and I do wonder whether, perhaps led and arbitrated by Kate Hoey, the Triangle Adventure Playground Association might not be able to meet with the governors of the Archbishop Tension School to come to a mutual arrangement?
Part 2... continued here.