I'd just like to draw readers' attention to a letter on Lollard Street Adventure Playground published on the Kennington Association news blog this morning from Anna Tapsell who is both chair of the Kennington Association (KA) and Treasurer of the Friends of Lollard Street Adventure Playground (FOLSAP).
FOLSAP have been working for some time to prevent the closure of Lollard Street Adventure Playground and to think about how it might be run in future, given the reality of Council cuts.
It seems, according to the letter, that the Council agreed at a meeting on June 16th that £45,000 was available to potentially be allocated to a local management group were they to put forward a viable business plan. FOLSAP report that they did develop a business plan, but were later told at a meeting on 18th August that, contrary to the previous information, £45,000 would not be available to a local management project.
Clearly the Lollard Street Adventure playground project had to go to tender, but FOLSAP are alleging that their experience with the Council has not been one of co-operation. Given that our Co-operative council are not appearing terribly co-operative, perhaps constituents of other councils should take heed. FOLSAP say the process began too late and that councillors/officers have presented mixed and non-transparent messages. They raise a question as to the "propriety of the tender process"
In Lambeth, the letter asserts, having such playgrounds open is a "safeguarding issue", given that many parents leave their children there in place of after-school care. Most worryingly, when Ms Tapsell visited the playground this morning, she found:
"just a scrawled ungrammatical note pinned to the gate saying that it would be closed this week. No explanation or other information about when it might be open. Two little boys were there with their table tennis bats. Their parents were back at work."
Additionally, the playground will now, according to the letter, only be open for one session on a weekday! It won't be open on Saturdays at all. Back on 7th April, at the KOV meeting, Cllr Harrison re-assured local residents that Lollard Street Adventure Playground would not be closing. Arguably, one could liken a playground that runs for only one session a week to a closure in everything but name. Moreover, there are still questions to be asked about why it's closed this week, and why no information is available concerning its re-opening. Indeed, opening the playground for such limited hours is likely to lead to it becoming less popular. See the case of the Kennington Park Adventure playground in which two playgrounds will merge on to one smaller site to make way for housing, given alleged non-use of the land... where is it? Ahh, yes, this is what I wrote back in September 2010:
The defence offered (by the architect) in favour of consolidating the [Kennington Park] site was that the One O'Clock club only opens for 3 hours per day for 4 days per week. The One O'Clock club is apparently "not well used" (at peak times, the architect suggested that 20 children use it)...Even more worrying, given recent civil unrest near these parts, is Lambeth's failure to understand that adventure playgrounds are a public place off the streets for children and young people to gather. To fail to allow local organisations any say in the supposedly mutual process of running facilities is distinctly un-co-operative and short changes residents. Short-term cost cutting of youth services will likely only lead to further social unrest. A recent report from the Department of Education notes that a quarter of excluded primary school students expelled in 2009-2010 were from Lambeth. There's no point in having police officers visit primary schools to warn children away from gang life if no alternative facilities are in place for their use and their parents are not at home to supervise on account of being at work.
It would be really good to see whether our MP still has any teeth when it comes to influencing the local authority and working for the good of less-affluent north Lambeth residents.