Axe is wielded over popular play centre

PARENTS have slammed plans to close the Maida Vale play project in Paddington recreation ground.

Susanna Wilkey

PARENTS have slammed plans to close the Maida Vale play project in Paddington recreation ground.

The centre has provided facilities for pre-school and primary age children for 25 years.

But now it could be axed under new proposals by Westminster Council.

Council bosses say the project is underused during term time and children's play needs could be met at other projects, including those at St Augustine's and Essendine primary schools.

Huxley Close resident Jodi Monaghon says the project is a lifeline for working mums.

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"I am devastated and so is my eight-year-old son Callum that the play centre might close," she said.

"I will have to give up work if it does - I just won't be able to take the time off.

"When I told him it might be closing, he said, 'Are you joking mum? The play centre is the best thing that has ever happened to me.'

"I think it is disgusting and shame on them for doing it - they have run the play centre down.

"I am extremely angry, upset and frustrated by all this and it is very sad."

The play centre is housed in a pavilion, which is currently being refurbished. There had been a playground next to it - but it was knocked down two years ago.

Parents say that the council promised them a new play centre when the playground was demolished but it hasn't been accommodated in plans for the pavilion.

Parent Sean Cotter, whose two children go to the centre, is organising a petition against the closure.

Already more than than 100 people have signed.

Mr Cotter, from Randolph Gardens, said: "The main thing the council has done is smash down the old playground and destroy it.

"Everyone thought when they knocked down the playground, it was only a temporary measure and we would be getting something much better in the long-term.

"We were told when the pavilion got rebuilt then we would be getting a new play centre. But it feels like we are being fobbed off.

"Everyone is really against this centre closing. My wife and I work and we need to bring our children here - in term time and in the holidays.

"People are very angry about the whole thing and how it has been dealt with.

"We have not been given enough time for consultation and it feels as if we are being swept aside."

Ms Monaghon asked children to fill in a questionnaire about the project in response to the council's claims that it is unpopular.

But the youngsters replied that they all loved it.

MP Karen Buck added: "What I think is completely outrageous is that the council - through a mixture of incompetence and negligence - has let the centre get into this mess over the last few years and is now saying it is unsuitable.

"Paddington Rec is a lovely park and this could be a great facility here.

"It has a long history of being well used and people feel they have been mucked around too often by the council and now it is happening again."

But the council says it has only opened a consultation and there will be a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the centre's future.

Children's services boss Cllr Sarah Richardson said: "The outcome of the consultation and a review will inform a decision on how play services can be improved and extended to increase access to more children - building on the wide range of play and sports activities in Westminster."