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Saturday, 8 November 2014

Stonebridge Adventure Playground and Brent Council

I have been following the campaign against the redevelopment of the Stonebridge Adventure Playground with interest.  It seems to me an obvious example where a political choice has to be made. 

Advocates of change would point to the importance of providing school places, which every one would agree with (I suppose).  Many would say more housing is also important, although I suspect the housing is there to pay for the cost of the school expansion.  I have seen some rather unfair comments on unsupervised play.  The Stonebridge Adventure Playground has play equipment that needs to be supervised, and serves an area of high deprivation, but that doesn't mean that unsupervised play has no value.  Brent Parks has built a wide range of MUGAs across the Borough, and in the right place, they can be highly effective for play for older children.  Such children may specifically prefer play without adult supervision.  On the other hand, the Playground campaigners obviously feel the existing facility has enormous value which is in danger of being lost.

It seems to me that the political role here is in the first instance to work out whether both sets of needs can be accommodated.  Either the ward councillors and/or the Executive members should examine the details of the scheme to ask (for example) Can the existing facility be incorporated or reprovided in a new scheme?  Can the housing be reprovided at another site, and how much social value does it have? What are the needs of the local area based on evidence, rather than just gut feeling?

Once you have some evidence, you can then make a value judgement as to what the best way forward is.  To claim you are "neutral" doesn't really cut it.  A choice has to be made.  Maybe it might be for a third option that meets both the Playground campaigner and the school goals, but a choice will have to be made at some point, and it is the business of the councillors as elected people to make that choice in a reasoned and transparent manner. 

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