Hammersmith & FulhamNews

‘Tired and unimaginative’: Parents call for investment in London play spaces

By Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter

Parents are calling for more money to be spent upgrading ‘tired and unimaginative’ play areas across a west London borough.

One mum accused Hammersmith and Fulham council of showing a lack of care and attention, with “old” and “sad” equipment and extensive “dead space” as regular features in the borough.

The issue was raised in a meeting last month in which a resident branded the borough’s playgrounds ‘miserable looking’.

A spokesman for Hammersmith and Fulham council said the authority recognises the importance of providing safe and secure play areas and that it had put £500,000 into upgrading them over the past three years.

Both Ms Wallop and Ms Johnson said ‘dead space’ was an issue at play spaces in the borough (Picture: LDRS)

But, Clementine Wallop, who has two children and has lived in the borough since 2019, said she has been taking her kids to neighbouring Kensington and Chelsea, and Ealing, to use play areas there. The 40-year-old says she first engaged with the council over the state of local play spaces in spring 2023.

“The problems with our playgrounds are various,” she said.

“In some cases, there are security problems and social problems with alcohol and drug abuse.”

Ms Wallop, who unsuccessfully entered Ravenscourt Park into London’s Saddest Playground competition, said some of the equipment in spaces across the borough is decades old.

While she acknowledges central Government cuts to council budgets have had an impact, she believes other Labour-led local authorities, such as Hackney and Tower Hamlets, have newer, better-designed spaces.

Ms Wallop points to poor flooring in Ravenscourt Park (Picture: LDRS)

She said: “There seems to be a lack of care and attention. It’s very frustrating for me when I read rhetoric from the council saying this is the best place in Europe to grow up.”

Rachael Johnson, 38. Ms Johnson, who has three children, lives by Normand Park, has similar concerns about the state of the play space.

“Things are just so old and the lack of maintenance means you are just constantly finding problems,” she said.

Ms Johnson said the area is underutilised, typified by the nearby café being rarely open. As a result, she said she rarely uses the play area, instead taking her kids to spaces such as Holland Park and Bishop’s Park.

“It’s crucial to have spaces like this where you can walk outside of your house and engage with your community and feel safe and feel like your kids have a quality space to play in,” she said.

Ms Johnson said the café at Normand Park was often closed (Picture: LDRS)

“It’s part of mental health, community, just people being able to come together. This space could be used for so many community activities, but it’s not utilised.”

Ms Wallop said there is also a business case for maintaining quality play spaces.

“I can’t overstate how much time you spend in playgrounds when you have young children,” she said. “On a nice day, that can be the activity that you do that day.”

Ms Wallop fixing safety issues is a priority. Greater engagement with local residents on what improvements should be made is also key, she said, with the long-term aim being to put play higher up the council’s agenda.

A spokesperson for Hammersmith and Fulham council said: “Even with reduced Government funding we are continuing to upgrade our green spaces and negotiate with property developers for additional investment.

“We’ll be spending another £450,000 on improving our playgrounds this year. However, we appreciate that we’ve not always communicated these updates effectively to park users. We will improve this dialogue in future.”

Pictured top: Clementine Wallop said many play spaces in Hammersmith and Fulham are ‘old’, ‘sad’ and ‘poorly maintained’ (Picture: LDRS)

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