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Latest updates on occupation to save Battersea Park Adventure Playground

 

Updates:

4pm Friday 25 January – Video of demolition of Battersea Park Adventure Playground – ‘Death of Adventure’

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3.11pm Friday 25 January – Update on pictures of tree damage at Battersea Adventure Park Playground

Following the reports that trees were being damaged during the demolition of Battersea Adventure Park Playground, Wandsworth Council has said the following:

“Although from the angle taken it looks like a tree it is in fact a wooden pole which is part of the playground kit. All the large trees fall under our control so they are protected anyway. Any tree work would have to be carried out by our contractor.”

10.25am Friday 25 January – Statement from Wandsworth Against Cuts:

We are very disturbed that the Council/police continue to spread “misinformation” about those who have been occupying the Battersea Park Adventure Playground, to discredit them and to continue to treat Wandsworth residents with disdain.  We have also heard that the heavy machinery has moved in despite there being 2 people still on site [NB. the two people have now left – update is below].  If anyone can get down to bear witness, please do.

Yesterday, we were forwarded an email to Cllr Tracey sent by a Wandsworth Resident who had complained of the Council’s continued determination to destroy the playground and to refuse to enter discussions with the various groups who have sought to provide alternative solutions.  Cllr Tracey’s rude response was to send photographs of the inside of the huts from which some of the occupiers had, they claim, been illegally evicted.  The photos and press releases by the Council claim that the mess portrayed in the photos was created by the occupiers.  We have been given a link to (very poor quality) video footage which demonstrates that, at the very time that police or bailiffs were breaking a window, the hut was not in the state claimed by Cllr Tracey.  So was it police or council officials who spilt paint on the floor, etc?

The link to the video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cwrLsr3GzQ and I am giving the full statement below.  Please continue to contact Cllr Tracey; kathytracey@btconnect.com.  You may also wish to respond to the press release on the Council’s website and to the posting on Streetlife (and any other such sites).

1.  The Council have ignored all attempts by a variety of different groups of people to find a sensible compromise between the Council’s wish to destroy the Adventure Playground and the public’s view that it should remain (as evidenced by their survey and the increasing numbers of signatures on the petition)

2.  The council has attempted to discredit those who occupied the playground by posting notices that they were urinating and defecating in the playground, had built a fire hole, were destroying structures, etc.  The police entered the site and confirmed this to be a lie.
3.  The Council tried unsuccessfully to get public opinion on their side by closing the One O’clock club and the small children’s playground
4.  The police and/or Council have further tried to gain public support by closing 4 access point to the park on the grounds that they claim it is a “crime” scene.
5.  They are now trying to justify this by claiming that the huts have been trashed.  This is the latest in their attempts to discredit the opposition to their plans.  The windows were smashed by those evicting the occupiers.

10.15am Friday 25 January – The two remaining activists occupying the building at #BatterseaAdventure Park Playground have left now demolition has begun. They said: ‘Disheartened. Sad to hear adventure playground being demolished & feel for the children of #Battersea. Shame on the Council’.

8.45am Friday 25 January – Demolition of #Battersea Park Adventure Playground has started, diggers are in. Two protestors still in building adjacent to playground

Pics and updates also on https://twitter.com/OccupyLondon

1am Friday 25 January  - Wandsworth Council attempts to starve out Battersea Park Adventure Playground occupation; Video of Police damaging Playground building during failed eviction attempt

483122_499296333440048_1049015983_nFollowing Wandsworth Council’s unsuccessful attempt on Wednesday 23 January to evict peaceful protestors occupying Battersea Park Adventure Playground – to save it from destruction and replacement with a staff-less, “risk-free” facility – two protestors (a young couple in their twenties) remain in the building adjacent to the Playground. Their continued presence is now the only obstacle preventing work on demolishing the structures of the Playground.

Worryingly, Wandsworth Council and Parks Police are now refusing to allow food and sanitary products to be delivered to the remaining protestors, a further escalation in what has to date seen Council and Police engaging in a series of tactics negating the purpose of the protest and intimidating protestors.

In particular, the remaining protesters had requested feminine hygiene supplies. These were brought to the Parks Police, in the original packaging with receipt, but having sought instructions from superiors – with the operation under the control of Head of Events Jack Adam – they refused to allow the sanitary protection in. Attempts have also been made to deliver food to the couple to no avail.

At the same time, as other protestors are being prevented from joining and showing their support at the occupation, due to a large contained ‘crime’ scene constructed by the Wandsworth Parks Police which media are also not been allowed to enter, a continuous protest vigil has been set up at Sun Gate to the Park – on the corner of Albert Bridge Road and Prince of Wales Drive. All are welcome to come and show their support for the Playground.

Local groups, residents and occupiers, who have successfully delayed the demolition by almost three weeks, have issued the following demand of Wandsworth Council  who steadfastly refuse to engage in meaningful conversation, even though almost 9 out of 10 parents and carers in the Council’s own survey said ‘No’ to what has become the current plans:

“We demand the suspension of the demolition of Battersea Park Adventure Playground, pending the holding of a public meeting with a transparent and accountable dialogue and a full consultation by Wandsworth Borough Council of the whole community about the future provision of free, safe, staffed adventurous and accessible play facilities.”

Wandsworth Council’s eviction attempt fails

Around 5am on Wednesday 24 January, protestors occupying the Playground in tents were woken as High Court Enforcement Officers, accompanied by Parks Police, broke in to take possession of the site. While a number of peaceful protesters were evicted forcefully, some occupiers had moved into the adjacent play building – which is divided in to two parts – in an attempt to further delay the demolition of the Adventure Playground.

The two activists that remain in occupation are occupying it under Section 6 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977 [1]. Others who were in another part of the building contest that they were illegal evicted. While Wandsworth Council may have obtained a possession order permitting them to instruct the Enforcement Officers to take possession of the Playground, this order did not include the building, and as such it is potentially an illegal eviction for which the occupiers are seeking legal counsel [2].

Responding to the new occupation, Parks Police used a crowbar to prize open shutters and smash a window. A video which catches the moment when the police and bailiffs enter the building has been released on YouTube [3], showing how the building was tidy prior to eviction and not in the state that Wandsworth Council claims [4]. In the video, viewers can hear a window and building being smashed up, not by protestors.

Furthermore the Council’s pictures, obtained by the Police, clearly show manipulation. In one, the south-western window which was completely smashed in the eviction, is now boarded up with all the glass cleared away. And there’s paint over the floor, which the Council claims was spilled in advance of the eviction, yet there is no evidence of any walking of the paint around the room. The protestors insist that damage was done to the building in the process of the eviction, which occurred in the dark.

One of the occupiers who was forcibly removed said: “We told them the court order didn’t cover the hut but they wouldn’t listen – it was bully boy tactics. They grabbed us by the arms but we were just being peaceful.”

Commenting on the pictures released by the Council, they added: “Just as with the reasons given for destroying the Adventure Playground, the Council can’t get what it wants by fighting fair, so it cheats.”

Wandsworth Council refuses to engage in meaningful conversation

Unfortunately the attempted eviction and the ongoing attempted to discredit and intimidate protestors, rather than engage in any meaningful way, seems to be the preferred way of operating for Wandsworth Council. The protesters, who are made up of local residents, activists and members of the Occupy community in London, believe the council has failed to accurately present the facts relating to the playground, and to explore all the options available for its future.

Key updates include:

  • The Council has ignored all attempts by a variety of different groups of people to find a sensible compromise between the Council’s wish to destroy the Adventure Playground and the public’s view that it should remain (as evidenced by their survey and the increasing numbers of signatures on the petition – now approaching almost 7,000 signatures)
  • These groups also question the legality of Council’s failure to adequately consult on the development. The Council only gave weight to children and young persons views about what new types of equipment to acquire, rather than whether staff should be removed from the playground [5] and so have not given ‘due regard’ to the effect on the children and young people who the Equalities Act 2010 indicates are a protected group [6]. It has failed to consider the impact of staff withdrawal and modification of the Playground on this group which is potentially a breach of the duty they have in law. Their Equality Impact Assessment suggests there will be no possible negative impacts from the change of service on children and young people aged 5 – 16 or those with a disability [7]
  • On the financial front, plans for the Adventure Playground involve a spend of 200K, most of which is going on the destruction of the much-loved structures which have been built in consultation with children who’ve used the Adventure Playground in the past, replacing them with a downgraded facility and a small spend of £60K. With the Council’s financial results for 2011-12 showing an underspend [8], and during this time of ‘austerity’ with the Council quoting multiple different figures that it has to save, campaigners see that this current direction is a false economy and that there are alternative futures for the Playground that could be better thought out, but the Council refuses to listen
  • The council has attempted to discredit those who occupied the playground by posting notices that they were urinating and defecating in the playground, had built a fire hole, were destroying structures, etc. All of these statements have proven to be untrue and the Council since removed their notices
  • The Council also tried unsuccessfully to get public opinion on their side by closing the One O’clock club and the small children’s playground
  • The police and/or Council have further tried to gain public support by closing five access points to the park on the grounds that they claim it is a “crime” scene.

The adventure playground is one of the most famous in the country and inspires passionate support both amongst those who have used it and those who know the good these facilities do in reducing crime and antisocial behaviour. Recent high profile support includes former European and Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion Derek Williams, and comedian Mark Thomas.

Notes

[1] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1977/45

[2] Area in pink covered by Writ http://i50.tinypic.com/dnj7na.jpg & Writ of Possession http://i49.tinypic.com/mtksiu.jpg

[3] http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/news/article/11652/squatters_trash_playground_building?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

[4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cwrLsr3GzQ

[5] http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/committ/documents/s24111/Paper%20No.%2012-321%20-%20Battersea%20Park%20Playground%20Design.pdf

[6] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/part/2/chapter/1

[7] http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/committ/documents/s24111/Paper%20No.%2012-321%20-%20Battersea%20Park%20Playground%20Design.pdf – Appendix 2: Section 4

[8] http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/s24175/12-491%20-%20Councils%20financial%20results%20for%202011-12.pdf

9pm Thursday 24 January – Fair Play For Children condemns Wandsworth Council

Fair Play for Children, who have promoted children’s right to play since 1973 in the UK and Worldwide according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, has made the following statement:
Jan Cosgrove, National Secretary of Fair Play for Children: I phoned Norman MacLean of Wandsworth Against the Cuts yesterday afternoon after receiving WAC’s report about the forcible removal of members of the occupation, who have complained of rough handling. Norman was very downcast, and not in any way impressed with the majority party at Wandsworth Council that has forced this matter through against huge public opposition to the total loss of the London Borough’s adventure playground provision, replaced by fixed equipment unstaffed provision.
I believe we all should join him and WAC in paying tribute to the Occupy people who took on the brunt of the last defence of this provision. Norman told me that 2 last defenders had barricaded themselves inside a building.
Wandsworth has wantonly wrecked decades of achievement, has failed to listen, and has forced through closures opposed on every side, including London Play, Play England and Fair Play for Children. Councillor Tracey holds the cabinet post for Children’s Services at Wandsworth – she should have defended this provision, instead she has led its total loss. Not fit for purpose, Councillor.
But this is no isolated event – across the country, children’s play provision has been hammered by Councils, and the damage is continuing. Our report Unfair Play for Children shows the extent of this over-emphasis on cutting play provision, especially where run by the voluntary sector. A similar situation affects youth provision – for example, West Sussex has cuts its youth budget from £16m a few years back to £6, or by a staggering 62%. Of 58 supported youth centres, some 42 have been told they will cease to be supported in staffing and grant terms, and even some of the 16 are being ‘reviewed’ for a third time.
When this Coalition Government came to power, one of its first actions was to cut the Play England budget severely. And also to announce that the gains under the previous Government of some semblance of a national strategy would be entirely abandoned. This no doubt in line with its mantra of ‘localism’ – decisions on play are best made at local level, e.g. by councils, never mind local neighbourhoods and communities. Result? Well people must judge for themselves how important many councils view play.
In spite of the growing, persistent and alarming evidence of the effect of lack/loss of play opportunity, lip-serviced by government and councils, we see the truth of its real status in actions such as at Wandsworth.
The reality is: Play has never been able to get a fair deal for children from councils, it isn’t getting one now, and this is set to continue.

More information at http://www.fairplayforchildren.org/index.php?page=HTML_News&story_id=20253

3.30pm Thursday 24 January – Statement of support from Derek Williams, Former European and Commonwealth Heavyweight Boxing Champion

[NB. If you or anyone would like to add a message of support please email press@occupylsx.org or tweet @occupylondon. Also tweeters do let Wandsworth Council know what you think of their plans – @wandbc.]

Former European and Commonwealth Heavyweight Boxing Champion Derek Williams has come out in support of a last minute reprieve for Battersea Park Adventure Playground, which is hours away from destruction and replacement with an anodyne, “safe” staff-less facility.

He’s heard about the planned demolition and has offered to get involved at this eleventh hour,  and to help get more celebrities involved.

Williams now works with gangs and hears their reasons for joining gangs, and say it’s often boredom.

“Leaving children and youth without a place they recognise as a base can lead to broken communities and heightened crime”, said Williams this afternoon.

Yesterday comedian Mark Thomas also spoke out for the iconic fifty year old facility which is one of the most famous adventure playgrounds in the UK.

One young couple remain occupying a building at the site, and a vigil for the playground is being held at the park’s Sun Gate by local activists together with members of the Occupy community in London.

 

1pm Wednesday 24 January – Message of support from comedian Mark Thomas:

[NB. If you or anyone would like to add a message of support please email press@occupylsx.org or tweet @occupylondon. Also tweeters do let Wandsworth Council know what you think of their plans – @wandbc.]
“Dear occupiers, activists, residents and discontents,
 
thank you for work, thank you for occupying the playground and thank you for reminding all of us that we only get what we are prepared to fight for. 
 
Coalition cuts and austerity make the poor pay for the mistakes of the rich and they do not care as to the hurt they cause. As Oscar Wilde said they “know the price of everything and the value of nothing”. 
 
In trying to shut the playground the council attack the most basic pleasure in our lives, fun. This is an assault on joy by a bunch of political hoodlums who would have found a place in a Dickens novel.
 
Congratulations on the struggle so far and good luck.”
10.55am – Statement from Wandsworth Against Cuts:
WANDSWORTH’S CONSERVATIVE COUNCILLORS DEMOLISH MUCH LOVED ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND
After 5 am this morning about 20 bailiffs dragged from their tents the members of the Occupy community who have been keeping the bulldozers out of Battersea Park Adventure Playground by occupying it since January 5th. As I write a few protesters remain under siege in the playground’s clubroom.
We call on all supporters of the playground to come to the park to protest at the Council’s wanton destruction of a facility that has helped generations  of local teenagers to grow up in a stimulating and safe environment.
Please also contact Councillor Tracey, chair of Children’s Services, and express your disgust at this destruction which ignores the massive local support for the playground. The Wandsworth Against Cuts petition has approaching 6,000 signatories but Councillor Tracey argues that it is not the Council’s responsibility to cater for young people. We call on all Wandsworth residents to join our campaigns against this, and every cut, in provision for our children.
Norman MacLean

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