WATERLOW PARK: We'd love to see money spent in West Hampstead

IF the residents of Highgate have so many objections to the development of an adventure playground in Waterlow Park, please, please could we have their share of the £90,000 Play Pathfinders budget? Sumatra Road s open space was designed over 12 years ag

Councillor Flick Rea paints a rosy picture of the consultation process about a new play area in Waterlow Park (Concerns have led to a new consultation, h&h letters December 18).

This is not the experience of the Friends of Waterlow Park nor for regular park users. FoWP is not against an appropriate additional play area but we do feel that the whole consultation process was a travesty, which is particularly serious given the grave concerns we and many park users have about the planned play area.

Contrary to the impression Cllr Rea gave in her letter, FoWP was only initially contacted by accident - someone approached a committee member walking in the park to ask his views at the end of the initial consultation process.

A meeting was then hurriedly arranged to inform us of the plans which as far as we were concerned was about initially informing us, rather than a definitive discussion.

We subsequently sent Peter Stewart a letter with our concerns and then heard from him on December 5 that there would be a one-week consultation from December 6 - 14 with the project team on hand on the 13th in the Park Centre, to explain the plans.

A week would never be an acceptable time in any circumstances but in the run-up to Christmas this was totally inappropriate. There was nothing in the newspaper about the proposed consultation, nor on Camden's website and we had almost no chance to inform our members and the wider park public of the very legitimate concerns we had about the proposed site of the play area and type of equipment suggested.

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I appreciate the pressure the DCFS was putting local councils under but we do wonder why more was not done to challenge this as proper consultation is also a Central Government policy

As a consequence this whole approach to consultation hardly merits the description.

FoWP knows very well that its membership, like the regular park users, are very mixed in their views about developments in the park and that therefore it is essential to allow time for proper consideration of the plans, both in terms of the chosen site and also the size of the area and the type of equipment chosen, as our response outlines.

Not to do this not only is to make wrong decisions which will have a lasting deleterious effect on the park's landscape but which will also seriously antagonise park lovers and the group which represents them.

FoWP has asked Cllr Rea to recognise the seriousness of the concerns about the play area plans and to use her authority to ensure that that nothing is done to progress the plans until these concerns are addressed.

A full account of our concerns can be seen at www.waterlowpark.org.uk

Ceridwen Roberts

Chair, Friends of Waterlow Park