This week there has been mounting criticism of the new park on the Friends of Victoria Park Facebook Page of the design of the new playground in the western part of the Park. (The Facebook page is only accessible to people who are logged into Facebook).
Criticisms of the Playground design
The main criticisms are:
- Poor quality communication and consultation with the Mothers who have used the previous playground on a regular basis. Had it been done effectively the criticisms now being made would hopefully have influenced the design.
- Many mothers now feel they were not given adequate information or an opportunity to provide comments on detailed design proposals
- Those who remember being consulted can remember no proposal to remove the fence.
- Those who have seen the new playground have assumed that the fence was still to be built - hence no comments until now.
- The new design has no effective fence around the playground. You can see the plan of the playground here. Many Mums (and other parents and childcarers) look after children of different ages. It's essential that they can all be confident that ALL their children are in an enclosed and properly gated space where they can run about at will - without coming to any danger and without Mums having to develop eyes in the back of their heads. A proper gated area surrounded by a fence provides this confidence that children cannot get out and dogs cannot get in.
- The main playground has no proper fence at all.
- It is surrounded by a log barrier which is as low as 0.5 metres in places. This height represents an exciting climbing opportunity for an agile small child - and can easily be jumped by a dog
- Only the 1 o'clock club for the tiny tots will have a high fence (see green fence in the above photo).
- Dogs will be able to get into the playground very easily. This is despite the fact that all playgrounds for children should be free of dog urine and excreta. (see also below)
- Mothers and other child carers will be unable to have a clear view of their children at all times. The nature and location of the new play equipment means that it obscures the view that mothers have of their children and what they are doing. Some mothers think this will make the playground unsafe.
- Dogs will be able to get into the new playground easily and consequently will be a major health and injury hazard for children in the playground
- The log barrier represents no obstacle at all to a dog.
- The reasons why dogs are hazardous and it is an imperative that dogs be kept out of the playground are summarised below in an extract from a statement by ROSPA and this document Dogs on Play Areas(PDF 241kb)
- The proposal that all dogs should be on leads in the western half of the park is very likely to be ineffective. It will be IGNORED by stray dogs, people who cannot read, people who don't see the notices and anybody who is irresponsible and wants to carry on doing what they've always done.
- It's been suggested that the only effective solution is the installation of cattle grids at all entrances to the park - as has been done at London Fields. This would stop dogs being able to enter the park at will.
The problemThe contrast with school playgrounds
Dogs on children’s playgrounds represent a major health and injury hazard:
- over 350,000 tons of excrement is deposited each year
- over 100 people, mainly children, have eye diseases caught by swallowing the Toxocara egg each year. This is caused by the parasitic roundworm in dog faeces
- There is evidence that dogs also carry e.coli and hepatitis in their faeces.
ROSPA - Dogs on Play Areas
- 1600 children are taken to hospital casualty departments with dog bites
What is extremely odd is that the primary schools all have gated and secure high fences around their playgrounds. This now seems to be a mandatory requirement for keeping children safe while in the Council's "in loco parentis" care. However, when it comes to a playground for children in Victoria Park any concerns about their security and making it easy for parents to care for their children seem to have gone out the window.
We understand that Councillor Joshua Peck (ward Councillor for Bow West) is pursuing an enquiry arising out of residents' complaints about the lack of adequate provision of playspace for the children in the park during summer months - and the general poor project management of the renovation of the park.
The best park in London?
In September Victoria Park won a Green Flag run by Keep Britain Tidy and came 8th in the People's Choice Competition for the best park in the UK. The Council's website quotes the Mayor as follows
Mayor Lutfur Rahman, Tower Hamlets Council, said: “With more than 100 parks and open spaces in the borough, Victoria Park is Tower Hamlets’ crown jewel. It is fantastic that our park has been recognised by the nation.Mayor Rahman's opinion of Victoria Park seems to be at variance with the views of at least some of the local parents. Perhaps he should meet with some of the local Mothers and hear their views about what it was like for their kids during the summer months when both playgrounds were closed. Maybe he could also read or hear their views about the "fantastic play space" on offer in Victoria Park.
“It mixes a wealth of heritage with fantastic play spaces, sports facilities and vistas. Our restoration investment builds on these features, making sure that Victoria Park remains one of the country’s best loved open spaces for years to come.”
A link to this blog post will be sent to the Lottery Fund - which has part funded the improvements, the body which organises the Green Flag awards, the Mayor's Office and Councillor Peck. MERA will be inviting their comments.
Friends of Victoria Park Public Meeting
There is a public meeting of the Friends of Victoria Park on 8th November where issues related to the Children's Playground (and other matters relating to theVictoria Park redevelopment) can be raised.
The meeting is in the Meeting Room at St Paul's Church in St Stephen's Road between 18:30 and 20:30. (Apologies - that link is only visible to people with a Facebook account and who are logged into Facebook)