Children and their play spaces

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Play Facilities on Old Lillian Baylis Development – Story in The Guardian and repeated elsewhere

Earlier this week the Guardian published a story about access to play facilities on the Old Lillian Baylis development off Lollard Street, in Kennington (Prince’s ward).  This highlighted that children living in the affordable homes on Wren Mews, managed by the Guinness Trust, were being prevented from playing in the playspace managed by the private housing management, Henley Homes.  Whilst there was some playspace for the affordable housing tenants, this was meagre in size and was not suitable for all age ranges.

The journalist contacted Lambeth Council approximately a month ago.  When alerted about the situation, your ward Councillors wrote to the Chief Executive of Henley Homes, expressing their dismay at the situation and urging them to make available all playspace to all children.  You can read the full text of the Councillors’ letter below.

The Guardian originally reported that the segregation was with the support of the Council, and that the planning department had chosen not to intervene.  The Guardian has later published a correction, reflecting that this is not correct.  The scheme was given planning permission in 2013 with equal access.  Since then the management company changed the access on the rationale that only those children whose family paid the relevant service charge should be able to have access.  The planning permission and conditions attached to the planning decision do not give the Council any powers to force the management company to open up the playspace, and it is a civil matter between the two management agencies.  This too has subsequently been acknowledged by the Guardian and the article corrected accordingly.

The Guardian also incorrectly reported that Lambeth Council gave planning consent for Henley Homes to remove a gate to the playspace and replace it with a non-permeable hedge, to prevent access to children from the affordable housing blocks.  Again, the Guardian has since corrected and updated their reporting to reflect that this incorrect.  The applicant applied to the Council to replace the gate and the application was refused.  The works have been undertaken without planning permission and the Council’s enforcement team is looking into this.  We as Councillors will be seeking updates.

It is also important to point out that since 2016, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has granted councils new powers to secure the long-term maintenance of and access to shared spaces via a legal agreement.  This is now something that the Council rigidly enforces, but these powers cannot be applied retrospectively.

Whilst as councillors we are disappointed by the many inaccuracies originally reported by the Guardian, we are grateful to the paper for bringing so much publicity to this issue.  Segregation of playspaces based on housing tenure is utterly wrong.   Following a lot of public pressure, Henley Homes has written to us to confirm that they have no issue with children from Wren Mews accessing the playspace and will “be leading the way forward” by working with the Guinness Trust “to ensure an amicable solution can be found”.  Whilst this is a step in the right direction, we are keen for concrete action and will continue to lobby Henley Homes to make this evident.  To read the most recent article from the Guardian, click here.

The councillors’ letter to Henley Homes in February is below:

“Dear Tariq,

I am writing on behalf of the three Prince’s Councillors to let you know that we have received a number of emails from residents living in the social housing element of the mixed-tenure Old Lilian Baylis site, Lollard Street, Kennington, SE11, which is within our ward.

I am concerned to hear that despite assurances given at planning application stage by the applicant that all play spaces would be available for all children to use, in reality, play spaces with the Henley Homes managed sections are not available for children whose families live in the units managed by the Guinness Trust. Developing a sense of community was a key argument made at planning stage, and it was specifically purported that making play space available to all was one way of achieving this. So I am deeply concerned to hear that this is not the case, and that social exclusion of children is being deliberately engineered, on account of their housing tenure.

Residents have asked me to seek a solution via Lambeth planning department. However, this is a civil matter regarding the management agency and it is only within your gift to ensure that all play spaces are available for all children to use.

Please can you look into this as a matter of urgency and come back to me a response, hopefully outlining how this will be rectified to ensure that children living in the development no longer feel marginalised on account of their housing tenure. Lambeth is a richly diverse and vibrant community, and I hope you agree that exclusion and marginalisation has no place in our Borough.

Best wishes,

Joanne
Councillor Joanne Simpson
Labour Councillor for Prince’s ward

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