Fears remain over Hampstead Heath play facility job losses after One O’Clock Club saved

Plans have been announced to stop staffing the One O'Clock Club and other Heath play facilities. Pic

Plans have been announced to stop staffing the One O'Clock Club and other Heath play facilities. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A popular children’s playscheme on Hampstead Heath has been saved from closing for half the year after a campaign backed by more than 2,200 people.

The One O’Clock Club for under-fives is among several play facilities in Parliament Hill facing cuts from the City of London Corporation, which runs the Heath.

But in a U-turn, the City announced yesterday (Wednesday) that the crèche will continue to run all year round after a four-week consultation with staff and a campaign mounted by concerned parents and Heath users.

However, the City will now charge a small but as yet unconfirmed fee to use the facility, which provides toys and play equipment and is regarded as a valuable resource for families.

Parents took to social media yesterday to celebrate the news.

Gemma Tame wrote on Facebook: “Woo hoo. See, signing petitions and actually doing something helps! So pleased for everyone!!” John Constable biographer Nicola Obholzer tweeted: “Yes, this was my saviour for 4 years! Great news!”

The City had put forward plans to only open the club for two hours each day four days a week from April until October in order to make savings. Currently, it runs from 1pm until 4pm every weekday free of charge.

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The changes to opening times and staffing cuts had prompted parents to launch a petition, which gathered 2,200 signatures. Among signatories was radio DJ Edith Bowman, who lives in Gospel Oak.

In response to the club being saved, she tweeted yesterday: “Brill news xx.”

In a statement, Hampstead Heath superintendent, Bob Warnock, said: “When young people are connected to nature it has positive impacts on their education, physical health, emotional wellbeing, and personal and social skills.

“We are grateful to staff and the public. Their input is helping us move towards a more focused learning and play offering for children from the Heath’s local communities.”

As reported in the Ham&High last month, up to 10 people’s jobs were at threat under the City’s plans to stop staffing the Heath’s play facilities, including the Adventure Playground and Parliament Hill Playground.

A new full-time play and learning officer and part-time play leader will be appointed to run children’s play sessions at the One O’Clock Club and the Adventure Playground, the City announced.

But as the Ham&High went to press yesterday, it was unclear how many jobs remain at risk after the City refused to comment on what it called “staffing issues”.

Changes to the opening times of the Adventure Playground still look set to go ahead, despite opposition to the plans. It will now open on a seasonal basis in the summer.

The City of London has also pledged to continue running the Parliament Hill Playground, which will be supervised during the summer holidays only.

As part of the review, it announced it will increase funding for its education schemes and will launch a new programme to focus on the Heath’s natural environment.