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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

This morning my 21 month old toddler and I excitedly prepared for our first trip to the new and improved Downhills park playground.

We have been regular visitors ever since my daughter was a few months old.

There was a disappointing moment a few weeks ago when we showed up to the park and hadn't been prepared for it to have been replaced by a building site. However, we were happy enough to make the extra trek to other parks for a while in anticipation of the improvements.

I have to say we have returned from our trip today completely dejected.

There have been some really good changes. The landscaping is great, the original metal slide has been painted to look almost new, the new swings and soft surface around them look and function much better with baby swings and older kids swings paired separately. So well done on that!

 


My frustration comes from the new climbing frame/activity centre.

Previously there have been two frames. One wooden centre that is for older children (which is still there) and the second a simpler, step, slide, bridge and climbing structure for younger children including toddlers.

My toddler and her friends loved it, but I could see that it had gotten a bit old and in need of refurbishment or replacement.

What this has been replaced with though, is an impressive and no doubt expensive metal climbing frame and slide. The problem is that it is also for the older children and I would hasten to say that it is more advanced than the other unit that remains.

It is completely unsuitable for any child under the age of 3 and possibly dangerous for children under 5 as it is quite high with slippery ladders when wet. Also, I found that the raised area for the frame, that still contains the original springed plane and bike, has also been built too high for my toddler to get up to on her own.

I'm sure that with any new development the council anticipates some sort of criticism but I cannot understand how they came to the decision to eliminate an area for younger children whilst doubling that for the older ones. I realise that there are still facilities for them to swing and slide, but an area to develop their climbing, coordination and role playing skills is really important. The old frame, if a bit rickety, had all of these qualities.

I wish there had been some sort of consultation event with the planners and community that use the park. Had they even sent someone out for a day to the park to observe activity, they would have seen how much it is used by toddlers.

Like I said before, I only became aware of the improvement to the park when the work had already begun, so I apologise if either of these have taken place. I can't believe that they did though because it would have surely rendered a different result given the discussions I've already had with the other parents in attendance today?

I'm not sure anything can be done now given the amount of money that has been spent on the new frame, but I could not let it go unsaid given the look of sadness and confusion on my daughters face today when she could not even reach the first step of the new slide

I would also like to send this letter to the council. Would anyone be able to tell me the name of the correct councillor to send it to?

Thanks,


Suzanne (28) and Isla (21months) Charlton.

Tags for Forum Posts: Playground, downhills park

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I live just down the road, and had no idea this was even going in. I was really excited when I saw the subject of your post, we've got a 3 month old and she'll be wanting to play on this stuff in a year or so. From your pictures though, it's a complete let down.

I can only suggest that you walk 5 mins further down the road and use Chestnuts Park playground which makes a mockery of this.

What a shame...

Dan

Thanks for your reply Dan.
I do sometimes make the trip to Chestnuts and Lordship Rec which are now more toddler friendly, as some of my friends live closer to there. It's just a shame as Downhills is my local park and where I generally socialise and attend the lovely cafe. It's a much nicer park with its landscaped gardens and playing fields etc. Just a bit of a let down as you say, that they don't cater as well for the younger children.

Suzanne

I'd also suggest crossing the road into Lordship Rec. The playground there was rebuilt a couple of years ago and is very much aimed at toddlers.

My daughter loved Downhills playground as a toddler. That piece of equipment was well used but did need an overhaul, but it's a shame they've replaced it with something for a different age group as you say. Will have to take my daughter over when it's a little warmer to see what she makes of it (she's now 5).

Hi Suzanne,

I ran past the new park on Friday and was quite surprised to see the new space, not at all appropriate for the age group the area on the left is designated for.  Downhills Park has become such a lovely space especially with the brilliant cafe, its is such a shame that the playground wasn't able to continue on the same track.

It is disappointing that it went ahead without apparent consultation.

I suspect Friends of Downhills Park would know who was making decisions for the change? A first point of call?

Julie

Know just what you mean, Suzanne. Downhills playground was desperately in need of a makeover and I think  a lot of people eagerly anticipated the new design. My seven year old used to enjoy hours of play there as  a toddler and the old climbing frame was one of his favourites. He came back from a trip to the park after the new playground had recently opened and immediately announced that it looked nice but it was a shame because it wasn't very good for the young children to play on. Even a seven year old could see that - what were the council thinking? I agree that there are some good things about the changes but don't feel the 'improvements' reflect the undoubtedly large amount of money that must have been spent on the work.

Friends meeting in the Downhills Cafe at 3.45pm this Sunday 20th Jan

Hi Suzanne

Sorry to hear the opportunities for play for toddlers have been reduced in the new design...   The playground has been on the agenda at the Friends of Downhills meetings for a year, but the consultation was organised by the council (please note the relevant officer is currently away till March). I dont believe the Friends were shown the final designs before they were implemented.

There is a Friends meeting in the Downhills Cafe at 3.45pm this Sunday 20th Jan and all are welcome. I have asked for your thoughts to be sent to all members beforehand and for the subject to be added to the agenda.

best wishes

Dave M

- a member of the Friends of Downhills

Dave,
Thanks for your reply. I'm very sorry that I managed to miss your comment until last night when I was reading Jackies reply.
I'm sorry that I missed the meeting also which is a further annoyance as I was in the park at that time making snowmen.
I hope the meeting went well and I would be interested to here the feedback from the other members.
Suzanne

That is a shame. I don't usually mind walking the extra to Lordship Rec but it is quite a bit further, especially in this kind of weather. And a bit lonely there... 

Hi Suzanne

I am really sorry to hear this sad news. In the past everyone expected things got better in time. This is an obvious example of where not only are we living in times of austerity but the idea of  listening to and consulting with local residents to make better neighbourhoods is just shallow jargon and worse than it  was over twenty years ago.

So for the record, I thought you and others might be interested to know how Downhills playground and some other local playgrounds came about and the amount of support and co-operation there was in the difficult 1980s. This was in the dreadful Thatcher days to boot!

Locally, there was an active group of local mums who were  involved in a number of thriving grassroots organisations for young children and their families. A group of us  created a local parent and toddler club  in Chestnuts rec old wooden building (opp St Anne's hospital) and a playgroup in Keston Road decided that we should lobby to get better local playground provision for younger children and toddlers. We had encouragement from an officer at the Council Community Development Department. Park Playground Provision (PPP) was formed.

We worked closely with the Parks Department on issues such as the type of new playground equipment and safe flooring (which was very new then) and within a reasonable time three new playgrounds were either reinvigorated or created. 

Chestnuts which at the time had a famous Tyre on a pole and not much else (nobody knew how a child could play on it!), a new playground between Lawrence Road and Bedford Road which is now a hard-turf space and a new playground for under 8s in Downhills Park. 

There was a children's playground for older children in Downhills with metal traditional swings and slides which later disappeared to become the natural wild flower area near the Philip Lane/West Green roads entrance to the park. We influenced where the playground was sited as the parks department originally suggested that it should be on the space on the opposite side of the path.

We knew that grass was where friends and families picnicked and played games in the summer (as they still do to this day) so they listened and the playground was sited in just the right place. The wooden Scandinavian equipment was ideal for toddlers and we got it ages before it became the norm in other parks in London and beyond.

We had a small grant from the council to promote PPP. It was a lovely example of local empowerment and a local action group succeeding. There were lots of young mums who have stayed around, happily bringing up our children and now they are grown up and flown the nest. Some of us have recently left our careers and jobs and are beginning to get involved in the local community again and will take up the mantle to ensure that round our neighbourhood there will be activities that bring people positively together eg Tottenham Community Choir and Creative Dance 60+  are organisations I have been involved in.

I hope you get support to change the unsuitable new equipment. If not fight for what you want! The other side of the borough get their way by demanding and not shutting up until they succeed in getting what they think they should have and we on this side of the borough should do the same. I wish you every success and hope you will continue to enjoy living round here and make the most of the time you have with your toddler. It is a precious time in her development.  

At least we now have the community cafe  and hopefully that will continue to be successful and even more well used. Good luck!  

Jackie (64.5)

Hi Suzanne

I completly agree with you and as a mother of a 22 month old I am also totally disappointed. I have many friends with children of similar ages who all feel the same way. If there is anything we can do to try and get this reversed I can certainly rally up support. Please let me know

Emma

HI Suzanne, i completely agree and am glad to find your thread about it! I planned to write before, but like most parents, it's hard to find the time to search and find the right place to complain about it properly. Certainly every time we have been there, there's always parents complaining about it.

What i can say is that this is NOT a safe structure for our 3 year old, or even our 5 year old, and we now don't go to the playground in our local park at all.

It seems shocking to me that they could have made such a mess of it - what did they do? Use something they had left over another playground had rejected? I see the playground companies equipment at other playgrounds and it's generally to a high standard, so i don't think it can be their fault. I assume it's the fault of the council. Did they do no research into the needs of the local community? Who did they put in charge of this? Whoever is responsible should be sacked in my opinion.

I did by chance meet someone this week socially who happens to work in the parks and resources section of Haringey Council. It was out of working hours, so he didn't want to discuss it too much, but i did have the above photo on my phone so showed it to him and sent it to his phone. He wasn't aware of the issue but said he'd look into it.

I'll get on to him again after Easter, but any suggestions, i'd be happy to hear them!

Any other ideas about how to go about complaining? I've done some searches through the council website, but it's not clear about how to go about doing anything about this.

Sam

Dear all,

i have now been given the correct address to send your complaints to about this -

 parkscustomercare@haringey.gov.uk

PLEASE WRITE ! Even if it's only a couple of lines, it will make the case much stronger.

Yours

Sam

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