Playground squatters evicted

Published: 23 January 2013

Work to install £200,000 worth of exciting new play equipment for young people can now begin following the eviction earlier this morning (Wednesday) of a group of squatters who’d set up an illegal camp inside Battersea Park’s adventure playground.

The six squatters were removed at first light this morning by court appointed bailiffs working under the supervision of a High Court Sheriff, following last Thursday's decision by a judge to grant the council an eviction notice to bring the unlawful occupation to an end.

Now that the playground squatters have gone, the council can begin to install the new play equipment. The aim is to have the modernised and refurbished adventure playground open in time for the start of the school Easter holiday.

The £200,000 of new play equipment was mainly chosen by young people in the area. Children at local schools and young visitors to the playground were asked last year what play equipment they preferred and the most popular choices are now being introduced.

These include rope swings, chain ladders, aerial walkways, tube slides, scramble nets, zip wires and fireman's poles.

The presence of the squatters was preventing this work from being carried out. Their occupation has put the work schedule back by nearly two weeks, posing a risk that the playground will not reopen on time. The delays they have caused have also left taxpayers with a £30,000 bill, which includes the costs of the legal action and also for the policing of the occupation.

These unforeseen costs will have to be met from existing budgets within the council's children's services department and could have a knock-on effect on other services to young people in the area.

Children's services spokesman Cllr Kathy Tracey said: "I am very glad to be seeing the back of these squatters. They have done nothing apart from cause delays to our improvement works and left a £30,000 hole in our playgrounds budget.

"Now that they have gone we can get on with the important job of giving children in Wandsworth their playground back."

The new play equipment will offer young people an exciting and challenging leisure facility and has been designed to be enjoyed by young people of all ages.

When it reopens the playground will also have longer opening hours than was previously possible. Instead of being available for just a few hours each day after school, children will be able to go there at all times Battersea Park is open, seven days a week.

During this morning's eviction it emerged that two other squatters have occupied the Battersea Park One O' Clock centre which is directly adjacent to the adventure playground. The council is now exploring options to ensure their removal from the building. Until they leave the centre cannot be reopened and remains unavailable for use by parents and children in the area, as does the adjoining conventional playground.