Battersea Park Adventure Playground occupied! Wandsworth Against Cuts & Occupy London supporters defend against demolition
UPDATE, evening of Monday 7 January:
The defenders of Battersea adventure playground have been told that demolition will begin Monday 14 January. Occupiers remain in situ; a small camp (up to 15 residents) has been set up inside the playground, with supporters visiting during the day.
This evening (Monday 7), police were reported to be chaining closed the entrances to the playground while stating that anyone who left the Occupy camp would not be able to return. Those inside the playground were concerned that access to toilets and food supplies was being cut off and reminded officers that they were engaged in lawful protest. According to protesters, the police then “backed off” and occupiers were able to come and go from the playground once more.
Officers did, however, close the neighbouring young children’s playground, stating that the protesters’ banners – some of which the children themselves made – would frighten playground users. A small cooking fire inside the adventure playground was cited as a hazard, as was an information table set up by Wandsworth Against Cuts.
It seems that local people are behind the occupation, as they want to save the playground and have run out of other ways to convince Wandsworth council to rethink. According to one occupier at the site: “Parents have ignored the chains on the little kids’ play area, lifting their children over to let them play. As for our cooking fire being against the bylaws, that’s not the case: barbecues are allowed here, it’s part of what makes this place adventurous.”
With the expected demolition of Battersea Park Adventure Playground due to begin early tomorrow morning (Monday 7 January), local anti-cuts activists Wandsworth Against Cuts and Occupy London supporters have occupied the playground in protest at Wandsworth Council’s decision to destroy the unique children’s facility and replace it with an unstaffed ‘safe’ facility.
The occupation follows ongoing opposition from local residents and groups for months and can be located at: Battersea Park, South West corner near junction of Albert Bridge Road and Prince of Wales Drive, SW11 4SF.
Those occupying the play area call on Wandsworth Council to reverse the decisions to get rid of play staff and to destroy the adventure playground. They say:
“We share a common aim: that Battersea Park Adventure Playground should be re-opened by Wandsworth Council as a public service, with the existing structures and the staffing levels required for safe, adventurous play, especially for the 13 to 16 year age group.
“We believe the council should reconsider the destruction of this unique and popular facility and respond positively and democratically to the thousands of residents who have expressed their support for free, staffed, adventurous playgrounds.”
Norman MacLean of Wandsworth Against Cuts (WAC) said:
“The highly qualified staff at this very popular and historic playground have provided a stimulating and safe environment for many thousands of children over the past sixty years. The playground staff have helped teenagers from the local area, including the large Doddington, Ethelburga and Surrey Lane Estates, to grow up free from gang and drug related pressures. They have organised cultural, social and educational activities which have helped young people develop confidence and independence.
“We call on Wandsworth Council to reverse their decision to get rid of play staff and destroy the adventure playground. Their plan is to extend the adjacent, conventional playground into the adventure play area. This will only be suitable for younger children who are being supervised by their parents.
“We call on everyone to support this occupation by visiting the playground, by bringing food and other supplies, or, if they can, by joining it.
Response from local people of Battersea
Local resident, Michael McCarthy, said:
“I think it’s terrible what is happening to Battersea Park Adventure Playground. I brought my daughter here today to see for myself what is happening. I think it’s great someone is fighting these cuts. Are the kids going to go? There is nowhere else.”
Another local resident, Lois, commented on the response to the occupation since it started saying:
“There has been a constant stream of local residents expressing outrage at the impending bulldozers and gratitude to campaigners for trying to stop them. Lots bringing practical support too; and young and old sending messages to the council on our ‘have your say sheet’. No attempts to shift our guardian angels so far but I fear they might just be waiting for the weekend families, to go home because they know they support the occupation.”
Videos about the campaign to Save Battersea Park Adventure Playground:
More information, with further videos about Battersea Adventure Playground and Wandsworth Against Cuts at http://www.