Tuesday 31 March 2015

Brent Labour Council should hang its head in shame as Stonebridge Adventure Playground closes

I visited Stonebridge Adventure Playground  yesterday for their last major children's event - an Easter Egg Hunt. Caught up in the excitement of the hunt children soon forgot about the imminent closure - indeed many children had thought that the playground was already closed on this the first day of the school Easter holiday.

The adults present were all too aware that this was the end of an era.  Salvageable equipment had been transported  from the playground building into safe storage. The outdoor play equipmentcannot be moved as the legs, embedded in concrete, would have to be cut off at ground level.

Brent Council served the playground a double whammy:  1) closure to allow Stonebridge Primary School to be expanded and housing built on the school's present annexe. The land sale will pay for the school expansion. 2) stop funding of the playground so even if the application to expand the school failed the playground would still not survive.

To add insult to injury the Coucil asked the playground workers to carry on working for nothing during the Easter and Summer holidays.

The consultation on the school expansion ends on Thursday March 2nd, two days after the playground funding stops. To comment go to LINK

The playground serves the children of Stonebridge and Harlesden, some of the most disadvantaged in Brent. The children in the new developments being built in the area will not only need school places but a safe, supervised place to play. The Council has deprived them and the present population of that.

Median income of Brent wards 2014

 Stonebridge ethnicity compared with Brent (2011 census)

Age and gender compared wit Brent (2011 census)
The 2011 census results showed that 32.1% of the Stonebridge population were under 18 compared with 22.6% of the whole borough.

The Stonebridge School Annexe. This will be demolished and the children moved into the expanded main school. The net increase in capacity of Stonebridge School as a whole will be incraesed by only 30 pupils. Houses will be built on the Annexe site.  Substantial investment has been made to make the Annexe suitable for educating children.

New housing is going up opposite Stonebridge School and the adventure playground, eventually making a continuous run of housing on both sides of the road.  The green space below and the trees are threatened by the new development. They originally provided screening from the busy main road for the school.

The empty interior of the playground building, soon to be bulldozed
Children left their signatures and messages on the piano as a farewell to the playground
On a personal note I'd like to pay tribute to Doug and Glynis Lee, the amazing playworkers and all those who fought so hard to keep Stonebridge Adventure Playground open. You are an example to all who care about their community.



Anonymous said...

Thank you for your support and also highlighting what a wicked set of people we have as MP's, will never forget the memories and friends we forged over the years. R.I.P Stonebridge Adventure Playground

Anonymous said...

Robert Beckles aka Becks

Anonymous said...

I hope the decision makers and Councillors hold their heads down in shame!

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin - do you think the campaign to save SAB would have been more successful if it hadn't been so aggressively anti-Labour?

Martin Francis said...

It was anti the decision made by the Council but the campaign was supported by Dawn Butler Labour PPC and Cllr Van Kalwala, at the time Labour member for Stonebridge and perhaps soon to be again.

Anonymous said...


Surely you are not meaning Van Kalwala being reinstated after getting a criminal record especially with what what he did.

Anonymous said...

Could you cite some evidence that it was "anti Labour", rather than anti-the council proposal?

Anonymous said...

The closure of the adventure playground is an absolute disgrace. I would suggest that the council are on a mission to deprive a largely deprived population of children, young people, and families of services that would benefit their wellbeing, and of safe areas for us to socialise, explore, and play with our children. These decision made by the council against the children seem to fall foul of principals of what Every Child Matters stands for, and have unjustly targeted the children of Stonebridge who are most likely to be socially or educationally disadvantaged and forfeited their right to facilities that enables them to "stay safe, be healthy, enjoy and achieve, and make a positive contribution."

Shame on them all.

Anonymous said...

I just wonder whether you've learnt anything about tactics for future protests. What do you think the difference between the King Eddie's campaign and yours was?

Anonymous said...

What !

Stonebridge only increased by 30 places !

To me if a developer is getting land it seems very little compensation. To me 3 extra forms of entry ie the equivalent to a new primary school with 90 young people per year is what I would have expected for such a loss of a community resource.

To me this whole issue seems politically motivated rather than a genuine desire to do the right thing for young people requiring primary school places and the benefits of retaining stonebridge adventure play.

Anonymous said...

What aren't people gettng here - the decision was made by Brent Council whose decision makers are Labour Councillors. People need to remember this when they go to vote in the local elections. It's not about being anti-Labour it's about being anti-the decision makers who so happen to be Labour coucillors who are always going on about supporting local people.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why people do not get that tough decisions have had to be made. We have a dented shield but this is what it takes to balance the books. They've tried to save services as best as they can but when the coalition proposes cuts what can they do? Yes, The Labour Party will stick to the coalition spending plans and also make cuts but this is what it takes. The people of Brent overwhemingly voted to give our Labour Councillor's a democratic mandate to do this and we should be thankful. Its only right that they received the payrise to do this difficult job and some services were saved. You can't just spend on a credit card forever and expect to pay it back. The shield is still there, but it is dented as tough decisions had to be made.

Martin Francis said...

To clareify: It is a net increase of 30 places when the places that currently exist in the annexe are transfered over to the expanded school building.

Martin Francis said...

This sounds like a comment from a Labour councillor who was involved with the King Eddie's campaign. It would be good to leave your name but I suppose that is difficult because of the 'Butt ban'. But to be serious they are two different sorts of campaigns. Stonebridge was about two Cabinet decisions a. Cutting funding 2. School expansion funded by a housing development. King Eddie's was mainly a planning issue, decided by a statutorily independent planning committee on planning grounds. Labour councillors in Stonebridge, most notably Zaffar Van Kalwala, supported the Adventure Playground - but of course he was prevented from attending Council meetings which made it difficult for him to represent the campaign. He even had to leave a Brent Connects meeting in Harlesden when the playground was on the agenda due to issues regarding the recent case. In addition the campaign got supportfrom Dawn Butler (Labour), Shahrar Ali (Green) and Ibrahim Taguri (at the time Lib Dem).

Something you say troubles me though. It is almost as if you are saying 'If you align youself with Labour you are more likely to be successful in campaigning against a Council decision'. That suggests decisions are not made in terms of the justice of the cause but on whether you cosy up to the Council.

Anonymous said...

The above comment sadly reflects the same old cliched response of the same old self-interested bunch of dead beat councillors...who protest impotence in the face of the coalition spending plans..refuse to stick up for the people who elected them, and would rather support a few highly paid out-of borough employees, who have been proven in a legal process to behave in a racist and discriminating manner against long-serving, local and loyal members of staff. SAP was supported by the Stonebridge community, and will continue to be until it is reopened.

Alison Hopkins said...

I suspect the tactics referred to may have been those that a Labour councillor thought might secure future votes, rather than any heartfelt belief in a cause. It's pretty disgraceful they won't leave their names.

Zaffar is a decent chap. So too is the Planning Chair, having seen her in action - chapess, perhaps. ;) There's another on that committee who I am fairly sure voted on sheer malice on a recent decision, but thankfully, Ms Marquis was objective.

G.Lee said...

Im really quite glad to these responses because they highlight some of the complexities that have confounded us throughout this campaign...Thanks by the way to everyone who has supported us...Martin and the Stonebridge community especially, but also Lorraine and Nathalie at the B&K times, Audley, and many others (too many to name)... Brent Council has now closed the Adventure Playground, and appointed three security guards, which is hard for us to accept after nearly 40 years of predominantly good times..We are still trying to work out exactly why ...when it is so cost effective, and so needed by the children and young people in such a densely populated area...But we are not going to stop fighting for justice, and the closure will just spur us on to greater effort...We haven't been anti-Labour in our campaign, but our campaign has made us see the current labour administration for what it really is

Anonymous said...

The Queensbury campaign took a fairly hardline aporoach towards the council and were still successful

Anonymous said...

Brent Labour seem more Tories than the Tories.

I bet in a middle class Borough like Richmond Chelsea etc their would be public outcry in the closing of a similar resource such as Stonebridge Adventure Play. It would not therefore be closed.

Brent Labour on the other hand seems to relish the chance to make local people suffer.

Brent Labour could have easily increased Council Tax saving Stonebridge and saving the money it is understood Brent Council now have to pay back to Lottery fund.

So in fact closing Stonebridge was not necessary.

Anonymous said...

Methinks 11:22 of APRIL 1st is a delusional fool. How can s/he write:-

"The people of Brent overwhemingly voted to give our Labour Councillor's a democratic mandate to do this and we should be thankful."

Is s/he saying we should be thankful that the people of Brent voted Labour in, which gave them a mandate to cut vital services and become lackeys of the LIB/CONS?

To go on to say..

"Its only right that they ( the Councillors) received the payrise to do this difficult job and some services were saved."

Is this person living in the real world!?

Shame, shame, shame on s/he to say this. Is it not rubbing salt into the wounds of the community that is already suffering!?

Communities that are becoming increasingly divided, with different rules and opportunities law for the rich and the poor, with children and families suffering...

Shame there wasn't a judicial review at the high court regarding the closure of Stonebridge.

The sooner certain people are voted out of Brent Council the better!

Martin Francis said...

I think the date on which 11.22 posted may have been significant.

Anonymous said...

Hard to accept the date as significance when it sounds like something Councillor M.Butt might say. Will any of the Labour Group that read this and post anonymously clarify.

Anonymous said...

The date most definately has significance as only an unsensitive and uninformed fool could have written 11:22.