London ‘two tier play’ exposed


LONDON: As many as half a dozen housing developments across London – most of them relatively new – separate play areas for richer and poorer children.

Politicians from across the political spectrum this week joined in denouncing developer Henley Homes after a Guardian investigation showed that it was blocking social housing residents from shared play spaces at its Baylis Old School complex in south London. The furore led Henley to back down in a public statement yesterday, and Lambeth Council has begun demolishing the wall.

Now a subsequent investigation has revealed that the story was not unique. As many as half a dozen developments across London – most of them relatively new, or featuring recent conversions of older buildings – separate play areas for richer and poorer children, often with hedges or other barriers.

The Seren Gardens development, located near Greenwich Park, has a mix of social, shared ownership and private homes, and won an Evening Standard award for best large-scale mixed tenure development.

The shared ownership and social housing part of the site, however, which is run by Moat Housing, has no access to the communal leisure areas.

“We have no outside space at all, just that balcony which of course I don’t want my children out on very much,” says resident Lucy, who didn’t want to be identified. “Two children over in the private development are at school with my kids. But they can’t play together. And the kids know – they know there is a play area they can’t use. “We just play in the carpark when it’s sunny.”

Deputy director at London Play, Fiona Sutherland said: “Play, like food and music, acts as a bridge between diverse communities. Segregating ‘poor’ and ‘rich’ children as they play will further entrench inequalities and divisions in society.” She commended the Guardian for shedding light on the issue but said it was not a big surprise to the charity. “This trend first came to prominence when Wandsworth Council demolished its free access Battersea Park Adventure Playground in 2013. This was replaced with a standard fixed equipment playground and any child wanting more exciting adventurous play must now pay £30 to swing over the heads of the poorer children at the Go Ape attraction.”

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