Wandsworth Council declines request for playground for homeless shelter

Wandsworth Council last week declined a request made by 70% of the borough’s largest hostel for homeless families to have a playground installed on a small area of disused land.

59 of the 80 homeless families currently housed in Nightingale Square in Tooting signed the petition asking for some play facilities for their children to be installed.

The petition read: “There are 113 children in Nightingale Square Hostel and the parents and children need an area outside for children to play in safely. We don’t have gardens and our children need somewhere to be more active and play together. We urge our Councillors and Council to renovate the disused tarmac area in the middle of the hostel into a play area.”

nightingale-square

In refusing the request the Council cited the fact that residents at the site were “temporary” and said that since a large number of children at the hostel would want to use it “it could lead to disagreements”. The Council also cited possible plans to add further temporary units on the disused tarmac earmarked by residents for the playground, to accommodate the ever growing number of homeless families in the borough. The Council estimates there are currently around 1,500 houseless families in the borough and the figure is growing.

Currently the hostel comprises 92 flats and is home to 68 children aged between zero and 5. The average stay of families in hostels in the borough is 92 weeks.

Candida Jones, a Labour member of the Housing Committee, said: “The need for some basic facilities at this site has been apparent for years.  Even when housing is defined as “temporary”, many families stay in homeless hostels for two years or more in the borough. These families are among the most vulnerable in Wandsworth and they deserve at least the same standards of housing that Council tenants enjoy. And I’m not sure what to make of the argument that we shouldn’t build a playground because lots of children might want to use it”. She added: “I’m pretty sure residents at the hostel, and in nearby houses, would prefer to have a playground on this small site rather than more modular housing shoe-horned into an already densely-populated and under-served site.”

The playground would cost around £40,000. The Council currently has £311m in reserves.

One of the residents of the square, Svetlana Delfonceva said: “All we are asking for is a reasonable basic provision. Without facilities the playground is dangerous and the children are bored and frustrated. I have no car and with a buggy it takes me 45-50 minutes to get to the playground on Wandsworth Common. I can’t afford to take a bus”.

As well as lacking any play facilities, the hostel has no washing machines.

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