WATERLOW PARK: This just isn't the place for adventure playground
Camden Council has announced plans to spend more than £90,000 on an adventure play area in Waterlow Park. The project derives from a government initiative to increase children s play areas nationwide. Since Waterlow Park is the only park in the borough p
Camden Council has announced plans to spend more than £90,000 on an adventure play area in Waterlow Park. The project derives from a government initiative to increase children's play areas nationwide.
Since Waterlow Park is the only park in the borough potentially large enough to accommodate such a facility, Camden has justified the scheme to place it there with a range of spurious arguments.
Camden originally allowed just one week for consultation, which is a third of the approved time set out in Camden's consultation policy.
This insensitive and ill-considered scheme is not new. A similar scheme was considered during the planning of the Heritage Lottery Fund award a few years ago and soundly rejected at an early stage.
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The reason, as Camden agreed then, was that the park is simply too small. Even made of wood, the structures illustrated would be a devastating intrusion and an eyesore. On these grounds alone the scheme must be considered unacceptable.
However there are many practical reasons:
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1. There is an outstandingly good adventure playground close by in Highgate Woods, far superior to anything suggested here and impeccably managed by the Corporation of London.
This scheme would be a total and unnecessary waste of a very large sum of taxpayers' money.
2. The park is in desperate need of attention to its infrastructure, particularly drainage, fencing, fountain and decorative features. It is profoundly irresponsible to put money and effort into a frivolous project when the park itself is in such poor shape.
3. The scheme will result in the loss of one of the park's most popular amenities in the only flat, grassy area of the park. It is a key area of the park popular with large numbers of people for relaxation and picnicking during the summer as well as for a site for the popular Bubble Theatre productions.
4. It will lead to noise and disturbance. The age range is intended to be 11-13 but the facility will be unstaffed and could well attract unruly older youths into the park who would otherwise stay away.
5. If the current neglect of the fences and features of the park is anything to go by, the playground structures will become unsafe within a short time.
6. Waterlow Park is well known as a beautiful park with a unique character but Camden officers have always described it simply as "a resource". This scheme confirms this total lack of empathy for what the park represents. It could also prove to be another white elephant like the £1.5 million 'visitors centre' that never was.
Waterlow Park was left as a charity to the people of London as "a garden for the gardenless", for which Camden are trustees, not owners. It must be questioned whether such a radical change in purpose of a significant part of the park, in the interests of a government policy initiative, represents a proper and legal interpretation of Camden's responsibilities as independent trustees.
As an illustration of Camden's disregard of the nature of the park and its users, it is already using the park for a number of revenue-attracting activities to suit its own interests. Despite a legal obligation to use any revenues from the park solely for the benefit of the park, the revenues are currently used only to further the activities themselves.
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