Squatters trash playground building

Release date: Thursday 24th January 13

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Squatters who were yesterday (Wednesday) evicted from their illegal camp at Battersea Park’s adventure playground have left behind a squalid and disgusting mess.

The squatters have vandalised furniture and ransacked the single storey play building within the playground site.

A sofa has been spray painted with obscene anti-police messages, while filing cabinets have been emptied and furniture and other fixtures left damaged. Mess and dirt has been spread over floors.

The squatters trashed the buildingThe clean-up operation is an extra burden for local taxpayers who have already been landed with a £30,000 bill as a result of the squatters' unlawful occupation of the playground.

This is money that will have to be found from already hard-pressed budgets - including the budget set aside to improve and maintain the 200 other playgrounds across Wandsworth.

These costs could increase further when the neighbouring Battersea Park one o'clock centre is recovered from the small group of squatters who broke in there earlier this week in defiance of the court order evicting them from the adventure playground.

The presence of these remaining squatters means that the one o'clock centre and the adjacent toddler's playground have had to remain closed to local families and other visitors to the park.

"The building looks like a bomb's hit it"The council's children's services spokesman Cllr Kathy Tracey said: "Unfortunately these protestors have shown their true colours. Trashing a children's play building is pretty disgusting behaviour.

"They claimed they were occupying the playground for some high moral cause - but now it looks like they were more interested in making a mess and damaging things. The play building looks like a bomb's hit it."

The squatters have been supported throughout by the pressure group Wandsworth Against Cuts (WAC) which argues that the council should not be making any spending reductions even though the UK's public finances are in the midst of the most severe financial crisis since the Second World War.

Obscene anti-police messages were scrawled on furnitureThis group's material support for the squatters has helped ensure that work to install £200,000 worth of new play equipment at the playground has suffered serious delays. The timetable to reopen the newly refurbished playground in time for the start of the school Easter holidays is now in serious jeopardy.The clear up costs will have to be met from hard-pressed budgets

For more information contact the Wandsworth Council press team at press@wandsworth.gov.uk.

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Recent comments

What I do not understand is why Occupy London would have vandalised a place that they were trying to protect. It does not make sense.
Raphi James

31 January 2013

This article is not true. The playground building has been used as a dump by Wandsworth Council filling 50% of the space with bags of rubbish and broken furniture. When the playground was functioning the room was a tidy, well organised place with highly competent staff relating to active young people. Wandsworth's Tory councillors have trashed the adventure playground not the people who slept outside in the snow in an attempt to save it. This ruthless and irresponsible approach to teenagers shows how unfit these councillors are to represent the people of Wandsworth.
Norman MacLean

28 January 2013

When the Adventure Playground was first occupied the Council shut the 1 o'clock club and the small children's playground on the grounds that the protesters were encouraging rats and were urinating and defecating on the playground (the police could disprove this). Now that the protesters have gone you would, therefore, expect the small children's playground to be reopened. However, it is now surrounded by a higher fence and notices to say it is a "hard hat" area. Yet another example of the Council distorting the truth in order to try to discredit the protesters. Given all the distortions, can we have any faith in anything that WBC says.
WAC

26 January 2013

The POLICE trashed the place not the protesters! Note they were protesters not 'squatters' as the council have labelled them. They were bravely trying to save the park, they are not criminals.
chloetc

26 January 2013

This is not the real story. I researched other articles about this and the council was not just going to fix the adventure playground up, they were going to demolish it and turn it into a regular playground. I am a child of 11, and I know that this is the only FUN adventure playground in London. The fact that they are just cost cutting makes me sick. Don't they realise that the children of Wandsworth have no other adventure playground to go to. And I am 11, and don't enjoy playgrounds as much as I used to, but this playground is still fun. The council have tweaked this article to make them look good. They didn't tell the whole story. The plans are to demolish the playground and transform it into a normal playground.
Chloe Stiens

26 January 2013

This is a disgusting press release from a council out of control. We must all join forces and hold them to account. It seems this time we have the evidence.
Ed Lattimore

25 January 2013

The Real Story http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSZ3UMzi8Mc&feature=share&list=UU35YbFqoocLcW9C3fdwt0dg Vandals destroy Adventure Playground for generations to come. 86 percent of people surveyed wanted the park to remain.
Daniel

25 January 2013

It is the Council who should be apologising to the public. There is video footage taken at the time that the police and bailiffs were attempting to enter. Although the quality is poor, it does still manage to show very clearly that the hut was actually kept in good condition and looked nothing like these photos above. It seems to me that this press release is a sad and desperate attempt by the Council to damage the reputation of these protesters. It is criminal to take this brilliant playground away from our teenagers – it is them and not the younger age group who need mentors, areas to convene and adventure in their urban lives. See the YouTube video link below: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cwrLsr3GzQ
Magnus

25 January 2013

Here's a still from video of Battersea Park playground building as it ACTUALLY looked when raided... http://www3.picturepush.com/photo/a/12038156/img/12038156.jpg Taken from original video... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cwrLsr3GzQ
anon

25 January 2013

Lying about how the activists treated the playground and behaved on eviction does not diminish the truth, which is that WC are willfully destroying an adventure playground whihc has been enjoyed by many thousands of local (and othert) kids for several decades, in order to reduce staffcare and the playpark itself. In years to come, you can feel proud when hundreds more young people (seeking daring excitement as many do) end up behind bars for minor crimes Shame on you
andria efthimiou-mordaunt

25 January 2013

I have just seen a very disturbing video which suggests the vandalism was caused by the evictors not the squatters. Do I detect dirty tricks. I find your article equally disturbing- please check your facts before pronouncing judgement!
mac downes

25 January 2013

I have spent the past year involved in trying to find a long-term, cost-effective solution for the refurbishment of Elliott School which would preserve its playing fields for future generations. It is with a very heavy heart that, during that experience, I have seen Council press releases which bear no relation to reality. Having seen the video footage of the occupation site as well, I can well believe that this press release is conniving spin. I find it appalling that a public body which we the taxpayers fund and which is also morally responsible for caring for its citizens in the best way possible chooses not to engage in an honest debate but, rather, to deliberately mislead us. This is so serious there should be a public inquiry.
Jason Leech

25 January 2013

There are many problems with this article. It refers to people who were peacefully protesting about the destruction of a valued community facility as 'squatters' therefore intentionally evoking negative conotations in lots of readers. I've never been one to believe in conspiracy theories but after recent experiences, I am in no doubt that the bailiffs most probably kicked stuff around inside the huts to make the protesters look bad and for the council to gain public approval. I emailed Cllr Tracey some genuine enquiries about the adventure playground and did not even refer to the protest. Her response was to send me a blank email with these photos attached! Why so defensive if they've done nothing wrong?
Esther

25 January 2013

There is video footage which demonstrates that, at the very time that police and bailiffs were breaking a window, the hut was not in the same state as shown by the above council photos. The film catches the police and bailiffs entering, you can hear a crow bar being used and the smashing up of the window/building. It seems to me that this is an attempt by the council to damage the reputation of the protesters and that they have been set up. If this is the case, then it is completely unacceptable and a very cheap attempt to discredit this important protest. See the link below (note is it poor quality). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cwrLsr3GzQ
Magnus Summers

25 January 2013

The squatters should be required to pay for the damage and charged with destroying public property. If they receive benefits, then that should be revoked.
Carol C.

25 January 2013

Simply to say that the Council has my total support in their action to evict the squatters. I have great sympathy for the homeless, but the damage caused in this instance is mindless and eliminates any sympathy that I had for their situation.
Michael Chesher

25 January 2013

This kind of behaviour will carry on until laws become tougher on squatters and treat them the same as way trespassers and thieves. So these people, have they been prosecuted? Are they going to serve community service? Going to jail would be too easy and there again, it would be up to us - tax payers - to support them so why not make them clean up the mess and enforce that by law?
CD

25 January 2013

From what I've seen and heard on the Youtube video, the police appear to be complicit in this damage
Chris

25 January 2013

john can i just say the damage was done by the police they are brainwashing you to make protestors look bad and do you know they are making people go hungry and not letting them have sanitary products they have not eaten properly since tuesday and surly you know what human rights are if not look them up
anon

25 January 2013

Are people honestly trying to defend what has happened here? Protest all you want, but what is the reason for all the damage that has been caused? This is a problem that always occurs, decent people want to stand up for what they believe in, but unfortunately there is always a small scum element who attach themselves to these things, who's only goal seems to be cause destruction for no real point whatsoever. Anyone defending the vandalism of this property, should really be embarrassed
John

25 January 2013

PLEASE WATCH POLICE ILLEAGALY EVICTING PLAY HUT AND CAUSING CRIMINAL DAMAGE AND AGREVATED TRESPASS A LEGALY OCCUPIED BUILDING http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cwrLsr3GzQ
anon

25 January 2013

STARVED OUT: @wandbc Parks Police resort to desperate tactics as they refuse to allow food & sanitary products to be handed to protesters! Remember. You have the right to protest, unless you do.
Raymond

24 January 2013

1. Closure of 3 playgrounds. 2. closure of 5 one o'clock clubs 3. selling 5 acres of school grounds. Elliot School. Football grounds/ £45 per hour. Zoo is pretty expensive. What do people get for their Council Tax? One is almost wondering if the Council hates children? 86.6 of parents wanted the playground to be staffed and improved upon. They could have gotten donations from the 2000+ visitors per day during the summer months. Yet, the Council would prefer to demolish this tourist attraction and make it bland. To the cost of £500,000. Did someone receive a brown envelope?
Raymond

24 January 2013

Please can the Wadsworth explain to the public what "The council is making changes to the way the Adventure Playgrounds operate." means and will I have to pay for my child to use this service? http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/info/10006/playgrounds/328/adventure_playgrounds http://www.wandsworthagainstcuts.co.uk/ From talking to the “protesters” for the first time tonight I understand that there are two people still building with no food or “women thing” ....
Philip Bennett

24 January 2013

This is messy, but how messy was is it beforehand? The police have now smashed all the windows in order to force out the last protesters - the costs of this are more than getting in the cleaner for a couple of hours. It's also criminal. The council have behaved badly on this. They haven't explored options. Charities would've taken it on. They've fiddled the figures on redundancies. We know that the basic workers have been cut everywhere leading to worse services. But there are over a 100 council staff on more than £60,000. The council has been dishonest and is behaving with impunity. Sadly.
Carlos X

24 January 2013

Yes I think this is Council propaganda and an example of how we do not live in a true democracy. Do the people know the two sides of the story? I know I didn’t until I talk to the protester tonight. The council is trying to Privatize services in the Park and people are trying to defend it. As a local resident there are two such services that are too expensive to use. Examples:- In battersea part they have a Zoo that cost 22 per family ticket. The old council gym now privatized Latchmere Leisure Centre cost 10 for one gym session, when I questioned the staff member said “ I know they fix it so high to make you become a member”. I wonder how much they want to make from the playground in the park ……
Philip Bennett

24 January 2013

1. The Council have ignored all attempts by a variety of groups to find a sensible compromise on the Adventure Playground 2. The council has attempted to discredit those who occupied the playground by posting notices that they were urinating and defecating in the playground, had built a fire hole, were destroying structures, etc. Police disproved this. 3. The Council tried unsuccessfully to get public opinion on their side by closing the One O'clock club and the small children's playground 4. The police and/or Council have further tried to gain public support by closing 5 access points to the park without notice. This latest is that next attempt to discredit the opposition to the Council's plan. Shame on the Council.
Jane eades

24 January 2013

The occupation was a heroic defence of a valued local recreation facility carried out in deep mid-winter, when “Charlie Masson Smith” was tucked up in a nice warm office at the Town Hall. I know teenagers who will have nowhere to go now the adventure playground is closed. It is unnecessary to do this in such a rich borough where the community charge is as low as it is. It is sickening to read of the Council propaganda justifying the closure of on financial grounds, in a part of London were flats are on sale for £6 million. I am full of admiration for the protestors and only wish I could have done more to help. Wandsworth Council is the true vandal here.
Keith Garner

24 January 2013

Why can't the squatters be prosecuted for the damage they have done? They should be made to pay and work to repair their damage.
Robert Ash

24 January 2013

Perhaps the council could sue the group wandsworth against cuts for the cost of repairs I am all for genuine protest but this comes under vandalism.
T Kirwan

24 January 2013

"The UK's public finances are in the midst of the most severe financial crisis since the Second World War." ...and yet £200,000 is being spent on new play equipment?! Go figure.
Dean

24 January 2013

Make the squatters pay for the damage out of their benefits. They deserve to be in hock for the rest of their lives!
Sue G.

24 January 2013