Stonebridge Adventure Playground campaigners vow to carry on the fight
- Credit: Archant
It didn’t seem to matter to Brent’s councillors that Stonebridge had the only remaining children’s supervised playground in the borough.
After 40 years serving generations of Brent’s youths, the council overwhelming voted to close Stonebridge Adventure Playground in Shakespeare Avenue, which will now stop operating on April 1.
Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, told a full council meeting on Monday evening: “We can no longer fund Stonebridge Adventure Playground.”
Months of hard campaigning where children spent rainy weekends going door to door to ask the community to sign their petition were not enough to rescue the vital resource from the council’s plans to build houses and expand Stonebridge Primary School.
Glynis and Douglas Lee, who have managed SAP for 38 years, were awarded an MBE for their services to the community in 2010.
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The Stonebridge ward is one of the most deprived in the country.
Mrs Lee said: “We’re sad and angry. The council doesn’t seem to listen. They talk about saving the front line services but there’s nothing more front line than SAP. Where is their loyalty?
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She added: “This is what we’re dealing with, Brent Council at its worse. We’ve been around a long time and we’ve seen some pretty lousy councils in our time. This one takes the biscuit, not listening, not democratic and not interested in the community, selling Stonebridge down the river.”
Mr Lee added: “We will continue the fight for the playground with the support of the community but we obviously have to go through the formal redundancy process, which we have started.
“SAP will close on the first day of the Easter holidays, then the lead up to the long summer holidays, where it will remain empty. It will be the first time in 40 years that there will be nowhere in the holidays for the children to go. We’ll see how the community reacts to that.”
As well delivering more than 2000 signatures on a petition, Mr and Mrs Lee tried to negotiate with council bosses to slash 20 per cent of their funding, in line with their own front line services.
Mr Lee continued: “The cost of their statutory youth services has to affect positive change in a number of people to make it worthwhile. I was surprised when I went to a meeting and they are only opened four hours a week.
“We work with a lot more children, young people, and the community for the best value for money in the most deprived ward in the borough which means that the decision to cut the adventure playground is not based on any sound financial basis.
“It is being based upon a personal grudge that has been held for a reason we do not understand against SAP and the community who use it. It’s a personal decision not based in any way on financial common sense. It’s a personal vendetta and we don’t know why.”
Clearly distressed at the council’s decision Mr Lee recalled discussing what trees to plant with children when they first moved in.
“They chose to plant wild cherry trees and there are now seven absolutely beautiful fully mature trees that may have to be chopped down which again is an example of the disregard for what the community is trying to build for a future.”
Cllr Zaffar Van Kalwala was the only Stonebridge representative to return our calls and said he abstained from the vote.