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Council-sanctioned destruction of play space must be resisted

PUBLISHED: 15:43 22 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:19 07 September 2010

COUNCILS are often guilty of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing – a failing in large organisations that becomes more and more common in times of financial austerity. But even in these tough times, Westminster Council isn t short of a

COUNCILS are often guilty of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing - a failing in large organisations that becomes more and more common in times of financial austerity. But even in these tough times, Westminster Council isn't short of a bob or two.

Like other local authorities it has a binding duty to raise money where it can legitamately do so in the interests of its residents, but there are times when it needs to look at the bigger picture. And at all times it should pay close attention to what the people want and do not want.

Take, for example, the grounds of Luxborough Tower in Marylebone. Anyone on the make could easily look at the empty space of land and imagine the millions of pounds pouring in from the sale of luxury flats that could easily be erected there. Fine, but for the fact that the land in question is actually home to a children's play area and a five-a-side football pitch. While there are plenty of flats in Marylebone, there are precious few places where children can play securely, so what should the council prize most?

The council is offering alternative open space arrangements which residents have already said are inadequate and unsuitable. Sadly, the council is so excited by the prospect of making a great deal of money from the space that it isn't really listening to local residents. Nearly 800 of them have signed a petition objecting to the proposal, yet council housing boss Cllr Philippa Roe continues to believe that ''this will be a very positive project for the local community.'' Not if they don't want it, Phillipa.

When the flats were built in the development boom of the 1960s, the open space was no doubt provided to enable community cohesion and to help relieve the tensions of people living in shared space. Is there any reliable research to indicate that the same need is not just as relevant today in our even more overcrowded cities?

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