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Bermondsey Playgrounds and Parks

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Thursday 24 April 2003 12.07pm
As an avid reader of SE1 although a 160 miles away from Bermondsey, I am very pleased to hear that Guy Street Park has been redeveloped and is about to open to the public. The state of all the open spaces has been an issue others and I have constantly nagged and campaigned about for the past twelve years, (although certain so-called local community activists did not support such efforts). Nor did the four Leaders of Southwark Council and Simon Hughes - all of whom have been asked at some stage to intervene in the condition of Leathermarket Playground.

I only hope that this investment will not go the sameway as Leathermarket where over 126,000 was spent on equipment in 1993, and might I add includes a unique Jonathan Huxley mural. Since that site opened it has neither been managed, maintained, or improved. I honestly don't know how any of the local politicians can walk around Bermondsey without being ashamed of their poor record on the environment.

Open spaces and playareas are of paramount importance to
the community, and I wish everyone well with Guy Street project.
However the proof will be in the pudding - when I visit the area next time I only hope that it will be the clean and safe environment Bermondsey children deserve.

Andrew Richardson
Wednesday 30 April 2003 9.37am
Your right Andrew, unfortunately parks and opens spaces for youngsters have been sadly neglected for over twenty years I think, not just in Southwark but all London Boroughs. There are many clubs for teenagers, but not much is available for small children who would benefit from the opportunity of running around , making as much noise as they like in the open air, playing in sandpits, swings etc. all under the watchful gaze of the 'Parkie'

I think Southwark has only one club that I know of , the One o'clock club in Bedlam Park ( sorry can't think of the correct name) and I think that is for toddlers and under fives only, no good if you have seven or eight year olds!

Children should have the opportunity of play, the days when they could play football in the streets, or push dolls prams with their treasured dollies in are long gone, more's the pity.

Much money is directed into sports facilities in certain parts of the borough, not enough though in open air facilities for youngsters in S.E.1.
Wednesday 30 April 2003 10.30am
Many thanks for your message of support.

If I smack a child I would be had up for assault - and yet a local authority can quite easily neglect the need to maintain and manage play spaces adequately - Southwark is a clear example of this - large initial investment but no clear long-term management or maintenance strategy.

Coming from inner city Sheffield where the need for playgrounds and parks is less of an issue because most families live in properties with a garden or at least a piece of worn grass. I was aware during my time in Bermondsey that quality play provision is a key prioirty in London, Alfred Salter understood this back in the 1920's. It can help reduce the stresses faced by parents living in confinded flats and is major way to address many of the social fabric issues in a community. What's nicer than seeing the nursery class from Snowsfields School using Leathermarket Playground, or parents on a summer day interacting with one another while their children play.

As a regeneration consultant now, I often see millions of pounds invested in initiatives and programmes without the strategic people and infrastructure being put in place (e.g. the youth worker, properly funded community projects, and of course play spaces).

I look forward to see whether this topic has touched a nerve with any other readers over the coming days. Again thankyou for your message of support.

Andrew Richardson

Thursday 1 May 2003 2.03pm
I'm glad I'm not the only one concerned about the lack of playspace for children here. If we are to continue to live in urban areas once we have started families (as the Government/ Council want us to do) rather than departing for the suburbs, quality space for play and recreation is a necessity. I have a 2 year old child and another one due any moment and live in an upstairs flat with no outside space. Our nearest play area, in Spa Gardens, has been closed for months due to a demolition taking place next to it. There is no sign of the long-promised park refurbishment taking place here. Getting information from Southwark Council is impossible - last week when I rang to ask when the play area would be re-opened I was told that it was not closed, just that one piece of equipment was out of use and covered over with tarpaulin. On taking my toddler round that same day, I found the gates blocked with chesnut paling fencing and padlocks - it was clearly closed. Even if we had forced our way in, as others have, the state of the area - broken equipment, gaping holes and the adjacent demolition site - would make it a potential death-trap for a small child. In addition, when I was there I saw 'adults' making use of the equipment covered in tarpaulin as a toilet.

We therefore spent 1/2 hour in the main area of the park and, as has happened on the last 3 occassions in Spa Park, came home with dog mess on our shoes, ball and buggy - the park is filthy and not suitable for children at all ....... (or for adults who object to dog pooh !).

I thought the Council was making play and open spaces a priority ? There isn't much evidence and the misinformation/ lack of information just makes it worse.

Thursday 1 May 2003 8.38pm
Many thanks for your comments, as to your remark that...

'the Council was making play and open spaces a priority ? There isn't much evidence and the misinformation/ lack of information just makes it worse'.

I can assure you they never will because the are totally incompetent when it comes to what local communities see as a priority or how to manage contracts properly. Although (and I am only guessing here as I haven't been down to see it for about three years) if you are the park rangers service based at Chumleigh Gardens. The last time I went down there to complain about the state of Bermondsey's parks I thought I had entered the Garden of Eden - if only local parks and playgrounds could be so well maintained as there offices.

If you ever get the chance to drive past Chumleigh please let me know whether they are still maintaining the space in front of the park rangers offices.


Andrew Richardson.
Friday 2 May 2003 12.46am
The public park situation in "Bankside and Borough" as the LibDems now are wont to call our little patch, is improving. A very commendable refurbishment job has been completed in Guy Street Park. The quality of the park "furniture" and finish is of a very high standard. The local residents were involved all the way through the project. Tanner Street Park is currently being refurbished and Leathermarket Gardens are still under discussion. I hope both of these receive the same high standard of attention as Guy Street Park.

Parks only stay nice if there is a posse of local busybodies who will police the spaces day and night to chase the glue sniffers and perverts away whilst giving the unruly kids a right earful when they rip up the tulips or chuck their chip wrappers about. The locals, adults and children, have to feel that *they* own the park, not the council.

As far as dog poo is concerned, I just think that the city is no fit place for a dog.

Friday 2 May 2003 8.46am
Many thanks for your comment.

You are quite right that it is about 'local ownership' in 1990 no-one absolutely no-one would walk through Leathermarket Gardens due to the drunks, broken bottles, and threat of being mugged. Reclaiming that area was a major prioirty during my time at BVH, but at each step of the way it was impossible to get a response from LBS. It took two years to get light bulbs in the streetlamps, I was threatened with the sack for causing a local outcry over the playground, and the only work undertaken to manage and maintain the park was done by the Inner London Probation Service Community Service Offenders that BVH got onboard. The only reason it is now kept to a reasonable (and I believe it is only a reasonable condition) is that we constantly harrassed the Leisure Dept for so many years that we got them to change their mindset - 'busybody' I'm your biggest one! Unfortunately some local activists didn't feel the sameway at the time because of their political allegiances and sat on the fence.

I welcome any current refurbishments of the local parks and playgrounds, unfortunately it is the long-term viability that worries me.

Firstly, that mechanisms are in place to ensure the areas are monitored, either by locals or by the highly ineffective park rangers who for the life of me I can't understand haven't been relocated and defined as on-site park wardens (perhaps they prefer to be based at Chumleigh Gardens which is worth a visit just to see the state of their park area in front of their offices - if only your local parks could look like that).

Secondly, that when vandalism occurs equipment is replaced and not taken away which is the usual practice of LBS (swings are always the first to go and not replaced), and

Finally, that a few local parents who get the initial improvements through aren't left holding the baby - that would be a naive approach to managing a park. People leave the area, their kids grow up, and a large open space becomes to big a burden to manage for a few willing volunteers. Afterall local TRA's must take some of the blame for letting the parks deteriorate in the first place, if they couldn't complain or get things sorted out when there was nothing there - how can you be sure they will effective and responsible in the future.

If you want to see the best exemplar of a community led and long-term viable project go and visit the Calthorpe Project in Kings Cross, that was always our aim for Leathermarket Gardens and LBS know that.

We costed out that the income produced by tennis courts and the grounds maintenance contract, could about employ two local retired people through the summer season, and one in the winter (with additional support from ILPS) if LBS simply had been bright enough to allow us to take on the management of the five parks (Guy Street, Leathermarket, Tanner St, the Quakers Graveyard and Bermondsey St pocket park) you would have got a sustainable programme for open spaces.

It is no good anyone saying to me things are better now because the council are investing large amounts of money most of which is planning gain and rightfully Bermondsey peoples own money which has been sitting in bank accounts for years. They have already invested 126,000 in Leathermarket playground and done nothing to maintain or manage it since. My parting request to LBS was that they simply painted the playground equipment and maintained the mural every year, the parks manager promised me that he would do this, since then I have written or spoken to all four Leaders and the saintly MP but still it has been left to rot and children have suffered because of it. As far as I am aware, local children in Tyers can't even gain access to the new kickabout area in Leathermarket it's locked up.

I can assure you that when I am next down in the area there will be faults, and I bet that in three years time things will have gone wrong unless there is a concerted effort now to put the right policies in place. If anyone can tell me about the intended contract for Guy Street park I would be most pleased to hear from you. Does it state who will monitor the park and how they will address any problems? timeframes for replacing damage? what budget allocations have been made for maintenance in years 2,3,4, and 5? and how it will all work in relation to the four other parks? Answers on a postcard.

Andrew Richardson

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