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Fury over council plan to hire Hampstead Garden Suburb park for private parties

13:46 20 March 2012

A fun day at Lyttelton Playing Fields last summer when the Mayor of Barnet, Cllr Lisa Rutter, and children made hand prints in cement. Picture: Nigel Sutton

A fun day at Lyttelton Playing Fields last summer when the Mayor of Barnet, Cllr Lisa Rutter, and children made hand prints in cement. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Fears have been raised that a park at the heart of Hampstead Garden Suburb could be closed to the public to hold private weddings, birthdays and bar mitzvahs for up to 500 people.

The proposal is part of Barnet Council’s plans to hire out its green spaces.

Lyttelton Playing Fields, which is described as a “haven of tranquillity” popular with walkers, is home to a bowls club, tennis courts, a new children’s playground and a heritage wildlife site.

But it is one of eight parks in Barnet which could be hired out for private functions if the council approves proposals which were the subject of a consultation from last November to January, to the consternation of the community.

A small section of the playing fields would be set aside for marquees and parking.

Jonathan Seres, of Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents’ Association, said the park off Lyttelton Road was unique in many ways and the plans were inappropriate.

He said: “The park is completely surrounded by houses. People do believe sound systems at night would be horrible for them and prevent them getting their children to sleep.

“The beauty of the park is that it is quiet at night. Essentially, this park is different and that hasn’t been taken into account.”

He gathered the views of residents and lodged an objection, highlighting 18 points, focusing on the potential vehicle damage to grass, concerns over noise from sound systems and the danger that broken glass could pose to children using the nursery.

He also believes that the open space, which is cherished by residents, could be closed completely at times, but the council denied this.

Dr Marc Balint, who lives in Kingsley Way, has also submitted a 300-signature petition opposing the plans.

But other residents maintain private hire is good for the community and David Baker, 61, of Temple Fortune Lane, said he was in favour of greater use of the park if handled sensitively.

He said: “The more communal activity the better. Living here is about community and a fraternal society.”

The council has proposed the private hire of parks as an extension of its existing events programme.

Environment boss Cllr Brian Coleman said: “The council already lets out parks for a wide range of events. Our consultation has been about making our parks available to a wider community whilst raising desperately needed revenue to keep them in first class order.”

The plans are due to go before the council later this year.

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