Radio DJ Edith Bowman signs petition against Hampstead Heath play facility job losses

Radio DJ Edith Bowman. Picture: PA

Radio DJ Edith Bowman. Picture: PA - Credit: Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment

More than 1,700 people have signed a petition urging the City of London to keep staffing treasured play facilities on Hampstead Heath – including radio DJ Edith Bowman.

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

Up to 10 people could lose their jobs under plans announced last week to stop supervising the popular playscheme the One O’Clock Club, the Adventure Playground, the Parliament Hill Playground and the summer paddling pool in Parliament Hill to save money.

Campaigners who fear the proposed cuts would close down the facilities have now launched a Facebook group and petition, which so far has 1,706 signatures.

Among those who have signed is broadcaster and Gospel Oak mother Edith Bowman.

But City of London’s director of open spaces, Sue Ireland, has written to the Ham&High to promise parents that the play facilities would not close under the plans.

She wrote: “A review of services on the Heath has identified some that could be run more efficiently, supplemented by income generation in some areas, which would be re-invested back into Heath services.

“We are now running a staff consultation asking for their views, ideas and suggestions on how they think we can do this in the best way.

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“We will continue to operate the Parliament Hill Playground and education services ?and we are proposing to create a new post of play and learning project officer to run children’s play sessions at the One O?’Clock Club and Adventure Playground with a stronger focus on wildlife and the Heath’s natural environment.

“This will be a real benefit for young people from the Heath’s surrounding communities.”

Under the plans, the One O’Clock Club would only be open between Tuesday and Friday for two hours in the afternoon between April and October. Parents would be charged £2 per child per visit at the previously free facility.

A new play and learning project officer would run sessions at the One O’Clock Club between November and March for pre-school children.

Children would also be allowed to play on the outdoor play equipment outside the club and at the Adventure Playground and Parliament Hill Playground unsupervised.

Up to 10 jobs would be lost. Many of the play facility staff members have worked for the City for more than a decade.

The City of London has written to staff members to say they will be consulted over a four-week period about the proposals.

Despite the City’s reassurances, parents and Heath users continue to fight against the cuts.

Poppy Hampson signed the petition, and wrote: “This is such an important resource for new mothers and young children in the area - we’ve all used it and loved it!

“It’s so important for little children to have somewhere like this, with both indoor and outdoor space, with is just for them - safe, secure and fun, in all weather.”

John Parker, who has also joined the campaign, added: “Rather than spending millions of quid on questionable dams because of a 50,000 to 1 chance of a flood or spending yet more money on road and rail schemes and stupid wars we should be caring for our children because they are our future.”

A City of London spokesman said that the Hampstead Heath Ponds Project has a separate ring-fenced budget from the City’s budget for open spaces and therefore has no impact on the delivery of services on the Heath.

It is not the first time the play facilities have been threatened with cuts. In 2009, the Ten O’Clock Club morning playscheme was saved from closure by the Queen’s Crescent Community Association (QCCA).

View the petition here.