Green roof at Tooting Bec Lido

I’ve got a thing about green roofs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq66nf3macs

Climate change is the number one issue in the world today and it is going to take all of us working together to fix it. Some things will require an investment of money upfront, but this will save money in the long run, as the cost of dealing with climate fallout will be astronomical.

Tooting Bec Lido is having its pump room redeveloped. One of the conditions of the planning permission granted for the redevelopment was that the new pump room must have a green roof, in accordance with the GRO Green Roof Code 2014. Considering the pump room, and the rest of the lido, is situated within the boundaries of Tooting Common, it is particularly appropriate that this building should have a green roof.

It was therefore disappointing to find out that the council has applied to remove the green roof condition from the planning permission. You can see the application here: https://planning1.wandsworth.gov.uk/Northgate/PlanningExplorer/Generic/StdDetails.aspx?PT=Planning%20Applications%20On-Line&TYPE=PL/PlanningPK.xml&PARAM0=988862&XSLT=/Northgate/PlanningExplorer/SiteFiles/Skins/Wandsworth/xslt/PL/PLDetails.xslt&FT=Planning%20Application%20Details&PUBLIC=Y&XMLSIDE=/Northgate/PlanningExplorer/SiteFiles/Skins/Wandsworth/Menus/PL.xml&DAURI=PLANNING

The reason given is:

The extensive biodiverse roof in accordance with the GRO Green Roof Code 2014 would be expensive to build and be maintained – it would be more appropriate to match the roof typology of the adjacent North Room. Furthermore, its thickness could compromise the space for the mechanical equipment to be accommodated in the South Room.

I take issue with the reasoning:

  1. Expensive to build and maintain – as above, tackling climate change requires money upfront to save much more money in the long run.
  2. More appropriate to match the North Room – the North Room has a felt roof, and I cannot see how a felt roof is more appropriate than a green roof for a building situated in a natural area like Tooting Common.
  3. Thickness “could” compromise space – this sounds like conjecture, which is not helpful. If the calculations have been done and as it stands the equipment won’t fit then say so. If the calculations haven’t been done then don’t speculate. A green roof can be as thin as 10cm, will that really reduce the ceiling height to the point where the equipment will not fit? In any event, the south room is having a large area excavated to house the pump, so could this not be excavated just a little deeper to create the necessary depth?

We will be making comments on the application in the above terms.

O2 application to erect 17.5m mobile phone mast in the middle of Tooting Common

When someone opposes a planning application, they are often accused of “NIMBYism” – Not In My Back Yard-ism!

But sometimes, opposing a planning application is entirely reasonable. When it comes to choosing the location for a mobile phone mast, we would suggest that right bang smack in the middle of Tooting Common is about the least appropriate place you could pick.

Cornerstone and Telefónica UK Ltd (who own O2) have applied to Wandsworth Council to install a 17.5m monopole inside the fenced depot on Dr Johnson Avenue.

You can see the whole application here: https://planning1.wandsworth.gov.uk/Northgate/PlanningExplorer/Generic/StdDetails.aspx?PT=Planning%20Applications%20On-Line&TYPE=PL/PlanningPK.xml&PARAM0=992225&XSLT=/Northgate/PlanningExplorer/SiteFiles/Skins/Wandsworth/xslt/PL/PLDetails.xslt&FT=Planning%20Application%20Details&PUBLIC=Y&XMLSIDE=&DAURI=PLANNING

You can see all the documents for the application and make a comment on the application here: https://planning.wandsworth.gov.uk/WAM/showCaseFile.do?appType=planning&appNumber=2019/4856

Perhaps one of the more interesting documents is the developer’s photo mock-up of the mast here: https://planning.wandsworth.gov.uk/WAM/doc/Drawing-5237197.pdf?extension=.pdf&id=5237197&contentType=application/pdf

We are opposed to this application for the following reasons:

(1) Tooting Common is a special place where people go to get into nature and relax. As such, building things on the common should be resisted unless absolutely necessary. Allowing this or any other development on the common is a very slippery slope.

(2) There must be somewhere less offensive it could go. When the developers contacted us, we suggested a number of alternative locations, including on top of the Lidl, or FItness First, or Argos on Balham High Road. Their response was a bit confusing:

“This option has been discounted by our Network specialist due to the low nature of the building. In order to provide the required coverage to the target area the telecommunications equipment would need to be taller than the surrounding buildings which would result in clutter protruding the skyline. An installation of this nature would not be supported by the Local Planning Authority.”

If you discount putting the mast on top of Lidl because it would result in clutter protruding the skyline, why don’t you discount putting it in the middle of Tooting Common, where it will also result in clutter protruding the skyline? It didn’t seem to make much sense to us.

(3) We think it looks pretty terrible. It’s a massive metal stick in the middle of a natural area.

In general we are of course in favour of improving the telecommunications network for the benefit our whole community, but this has to be balanced with other considerations, one of which is the protection of spaces which also benefit the whole community, such as Tooting Common.

Update on Tooting Triangle redevelopment

You may have seen our campaign in November 2018 to save the “stay and play” provision at the Tooting Triangle. After winning several concessions from the council back then, we have been waiting to see the planning application from the developer. The application has now been submitted:

https://planning1.wandsworth.gov.uk/Northgate/PlanningExplorer/Generic/StdDetails.aspx?PT=Planning%20Applications%20On-Line&TYPE=PL/PlanningPK.xml&PARAM0=987041&XSLT=/Northgate/PlanningExplorer/SiteFiles/Skins/Wandsworth/xslt/PL/PLDetails.xslt&FT=Planning%20Application%20Details&PUBLIC=Y&XMLSIDE=/Northgate/PlanningExplorer/SiteFiles/Skins/Wandsworth/Menus/PL.xml&DAURI=PLANNING

You can comment on the application up to 22 November 2019. Here are our thoughts:

  1. A soft play area has been included which means that there is the capacity to offer sessions for very young children similar to the existing stay and play. Wandsworth Tories have the power to make it a condition of the lease and/or planning permission that the developer must deliver a certain number of sessions and must deliver these for free. However, every time we asked Wandsworth Tories to keep the sessions free they refused. We will continue to make the case that these sessions should be free, but if you can email the chair of the Finance Committee, Cllr Aled Richards-Jones, and make a personal appeal, that would be very helpful. His email is cllr.a.richards-jones@wandsworth.gov.uk
  2. The male changing room is significantly larger than the female changing room. The design and access statement states: “Based on known usage at TFC’s other sports centres, the male changing rooms are larger than the female ones.  In the event of a sporting activity taking place with a mainly female attendance, these changing rooms can be interchangeable.” However, we think that the changing rooms should be equal in size. Access to facilities should be equal. It also sends entirely the wrong message to women and girls – we want to encourage greater female participation in sport, and that is not the impression given by a changing room that is much smaller. Whilst it may be true that “known usage” at other centres is currently male-dominated, that is precisely the situation we should be working to equalise.
  3. The bat habitat assessment report looks fine (although we are not experts on the subject) – the impact on bats of the new LED floodlights will be equal to or less than the impact of the current metal halide floodlights.
  4. The arboricultural report also looks fine (again, we’re not experts) – whilst the loss of four trees is disappointing, the addition of trees around the football pitches should compensate for this. We hope that the council’s Planning Applications Committee will ensure that planting more trees is a mandatory condition attached to any planning permission they may be minded to grant.
  5. Overall, the rest of the development is welcome.

We will be making representations in the above terms to the council through the online planning portal, and you can do the same.

Community RoadWatch events

Community RoadWatch (ie a police officer with a high-tech mobile speedgun) is coming to the following roads in Tooting:

3pm 28 June Streathbourne Rd
9am 3 July Avoca Rd
9am 9 July Mantilla Rd

Adults and children are welcome to have a go on the speedgun, so come along to try it out.

The speedgun measures how fast cars and motorbikes are travelling, and if any are recorded doing more than 24mph (ie more than 20% over the 20mph speed limit) then they are sent a letter by the police reminding them to slow down. Repeat offenders (those caught during previous Community RoadWatch events) can have points put on their licence and/or fines.

Drive safe!

Update to proposed changes to roads around Tooting Common

For the full background, see our previous post on proposed changes to roads around Tooting Common.

When we were told about the proposed changes it was not clear if the council would be conducting any consultation, so we launched our own survey to see how people felt about the changes. With the help of local volunteers (thank you!) we delivered letters notifying people about the changes and providing a link to our survey to every home on:

  1. Montana Road
  2. Avoca Road
  3. Elmbourne Road
  4. Hillbury Road
  5. Louisville Road
  6. Streathbourne Road
  7. Drakefield Road
  8. Manville Road

To date we have had 273 responses! Many thanks to those who completed the survey, it was vital data.

The results from our survey were fairly clear:

  1. For the two right turn bans, there was a clear negative view: 70% of people were against, 20% in favour, and 10% undecided.
  2. For taking the parking off the pavement and back onto the road on Elmbourne Road, it was pretty much even: 37% in favour, 39% against, 24% undecided.
  3. For all the other measures, there was a clear positive view: about 50% in favour, 25% against and 25% undecided for each.

We have been told by the council today that the two right turn bans will not be taken forward at this stage.

Next steps

Item 3 on our previous post had two parts to it:

  1. upgraded traffic calming and informal crossings on Dr Johnson Avenue; and
  2. a raised table at the junction of Elmbourne Road and Louisville Road to enable safer crossing for pedestrians (and in particular students from St Anselm’s primary school).

These two changes are going to be implemented right away.

In respect of items 4, 5, 6 and 7 from our previous post, the council is going to send a letter to the “local area” (we are not sure which roads this will cover) to inform residents of the other measures and invite comments. Provided the overall pattern of comments is positive then the council intends to implement those changes too.

Planning applications for Tooting Lodge

Tooting Lodge (98-100 Tooting Bec Road) is a grade II listed building that has been unused for a number of years. Renovation works have been slowly made to the Lodge over the last few years and it is looking a lot better now than it was. The owner has made a number of planning applications that local residents may wish to comment on:

Planning application 2018/5710: temporary change of use of Lodge and part of the site from Nursery (Class D1) to 1 x 2-bedroom residential unit (Class C3) and alterations including inclusion of additional doors at ground floor level.

These two applications are for the same thing, one is the listed building consent 2018/6129 and the other is the planning permission 2018/6118: demolition of single storey extension and outbuildings and erection of replacement single storey extension, single storey building for use as gym (Class D2) with link corridor to the Lodge and single storey building for use as car show room (Class A1) including associated office, show room and covered display area in open yard area.

Click this link for all the drawings for the car showroom and gym. The view from the street would look like this:

Click the image to view it fullsize

If you want to comment on these plans (in support, to object, or just to make a neutral comment), please click on the links above to the planning applications and click on “View Associated Application Documents & Make Online Comments for Live Applications” then click on “Comment On Application”. The form for making comments is very straightforward.

Personally, we do not think the planned new building looks particularly in keeping with the Lodge, and we do not think the area needs a car showroom. But your views may differ, and everyone is entitled to make their own comments on the proposals.

Proposed changes to roads around Tooting Common

The proposals

Here is everything we know at this point about these plans:

In October 2015, residents of Elmbourne Road and Hillbury Road signed a petition asking Wandworth Council to review the levels of traffic on these roads. Also at this time, parents, carers and teachers at St Anselm’s School signed a petition asking for three road safety improvements, one of which was a pedestrian crossing at the junction of Louisville Road, Elmbourne Road and Tooting Bec Common.

In January 2018, the council conducted an assessment of the traffic on Elmbourne Road. The council found that Elmbourne Road receives over 700 vehicles per hour in the evening rush hour, which is well above the council’s threshold of 300 vehicles per hour for a residential road (you can read the full paper and further details at item 18 on the meeting agenda).

As a result of this assessment, the council looked at ways to reduce the traffic on Elmbourne Road. The council worked with Transport for London to explore the possibility of removing the right-turn ban from Tooting Bec Road into Balham High Road, but unfortunately, after exhausting all possible options to remove the banned right turn, they found it was not feasible to do this due to the physical constraints at the staggered junction and the “Safer Junctions” scheme which TfL is also developing to improve road safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Ultimately, no safe solution could be found so the right-turn ban will remain.

The council has therefore prepared 7 measures for reducing traffic on Elmbourne Road and Hillbury Road:

  1. Right turn ban from Tooting Bec Road into Elmbourne Road.
  2. Right turn ban from Tooting Bec Road into Dr Johnson Avenue.
  3. Upgraded traffic calming and informal crossings on Dr Johnson Avenue and at the junction of Elmbourne Road/Louisville Road.
  4. Relocate Elmbourne Road parking fully onto the carriageway.
  5. Additional junction tables on Elmbourne Road.
  6. Speed tables and informal crossing points on Hillbury Road.
  7. Upgraded entry treatments at the junctions of Elmbourne Road and Hillbury Road with Bedford Hill.

The council and TfL have conducted modelling on these proposals and found the following:

  1. Proposal 1 above would result in a reduction of 200-300 vehicles per hour on Elmbourne Road, plus a similar reduction on Franciscan Road and Moring Road.
  2. Proposal 2 above would result in a similar traffic reduction for Elmbourne Road as Proposal 1, but it would also encourage more traffic to use Bedford Hill (B242) rather than Dr Johnson Avenue.
  3. Proposal 3 above improves pedestrian permeability through the area, between the common areas, and improves safety at the junction of Dr Johnson Avenue and Tooting Bec Road. It also partially addresses point 1 of the St Anslem’s School petition – the council’s “Traffic Management Policy” requires a certain volume of people to justify a pedestrian crossing which the junction of Elmbourne Road and Louisville Road does not meet, so an informal crossing is the next best thing.
  4. Proposal 4 above will improve the pavement which in places has insufficient width due to inconsiderate parking, overgrown hedges and street furniture. Parking fully on the carriageway will further reduce through traffic along Elmbourne Road and encourage the use of A roads (such as Tooting Bec Road A214 and Balham High Road A24) and B roads (such as Garrad’s Lane B242 and Bedford Hill B242).
  5. Proposal 5 above will further improve pedestrian permeability in the area and ensure a more frequent and regular spacing between traffic calming features which should encourage a constant low speed rather than accelerating between features. It is hoped this will also contribute to pollution reduction.
  6. Proposal 6 above will improve pedestrian permeability and discourage cars from using Hillbury Road, which currently experiences less than the key threshold of 300 vehicles per hour.
  7. Proposal 7 above ensures both roads are treated consistently and also addresses a petition which raised issues with the junction layout.

Funding is available this financial year through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Local Implementation Plan and the council is proposing to use this to implement Proposal 3 first and as soon as possible.

The council has provided two drawings that show the proposals: drawing 1 and drawing 2.

FAQs

Q. Who is responsible for these proposals?
A. Wandsworth Council, which is controlled by the Conservative party. The authors of this blog – Fleur, Clare and Hector – are the three councillors for the local area, and we are all members of the Labour party. As such, we have not had any role to play in the development of these proposals. We have been campaigning for improved road safety for many years, and we are glad that the council has finally brought forward some proposals, but we did not design these proposals ourselves.

Q. What are the next steps?
A. The council wants to implement Proposal 3 as soon as possible. It will then submit the other 6 proposals to the meeting of the Strategic Planning and Transportation Overview and Scrutiny Committee (STPOSC) on 12 February 2019. If the STPOSC approves the 6 proposals then these will be implemented too.

Q. How can I have my say on this issue?
A. Your three local Labour councillors are conducting our own survey of residents to understand what people think. Please complete our survey on the proposals to calm traffic on Elmbourne Road in as much detail as you like.

We will also be holding a public meeting in mid-January; full details of this will be released as soon as we can get the council to agree to send a representative to answer questions!

We will use the results of the survey and public meeting to represent your views to the STPOSC on 12 February, so please do complete the survey!

Q. How can I get in touch with you?
A. You can email us any time on our council email addresses:
cllr.h.denfield@wandsworth.gov.uk
cllr.f.anderson@wandsworth.gov.uk
cllr.c.fraser@wandsworth.gov.uk


Round up of 2018

Hector, Fleur and Clare

Thank you to everyone who has contacted us, supported us and voted for us during this year. We’re really honoured to be your local councillors and aim to help you as much as possible. Here are some of our highlights of 2018.

Local elections

The Wandsworth council elections were in May and we had hoped that Labour would win the council.  We had worked a hard with local residents and community groups to write an exciting manifesto which we were looking forward to delivering. Labour did get more votes that the Tories (123,208 to 121,295), but fewer council seats – 26 out of 60.

Since the election there have been very few new ideas from the Conservatives. Instead of taking action on the environment, housing and building up our local communities that we would have done, there is the same increase on homelessness, constant cuts to community services and children’s centres, and no real changes on our roads to cut pollution.

The increase in Labour councillors has been very welcome – especially new councillors Cllr Clare Fraser and Cllr Hector Denfield here in Bedford ward, and many other excellent new community representatives across the borough. Its exciting to be a part of this team, and its good news for residents.

Traffic

One of the main issues raised by local residents is too much traffic – resulting in traffic jams, too much pollution, danger to pedestrians and damaged parked cars. We have been working with local residents to make these views known to the council for several years, and following many petitions, traffic surveys, work with Transport of London there is now a proposal for changes to Elmbourne Road to address the traffic there – a full blog about this will follow, and the committee will meet on February 12th at 7.30pm

We will continue to promote cycle hoops and pods, cycle friendly road changes, and address issues of rat-running.

Tooting Common and the Lido

The very hot summer wasn’t fun for everyone in the super long queues at Tooting Lido. We met with council officers and Place for People who manage the Lido to find out what caused the problems and what can be done to fix them. They make plenty of profit and must afford more working card machines and more staff to communicate with everyone queueing – we’ll be meeting with them regularly next year.

Cllr Fleur Anderson stood down from the Tooting Common Management Advisory Committee after 4 years of active membership, and Cllr Clare Fraser has joined the committee. It meets monthly and aims to preserve the special ‘character’ of the common. Do get in touch with Cllr Fraser if you’d like to raise anything about the common. The recent extensive Thames Water works were to fix a leak under the railway by making a new diverted pipe.

Parkrun goes from strength to strength and is a great asset to Tooting Common. The free, timed 5km run (three laps) is run entirely by an army of really dedicated local volunteers each Saturday. Thank you to all the volunteers who make it possible, and encourage so many local people to be fitter and do something good together. We hope that Wandsworth Council will relent and agree to a run in Battersea Park too.

Children’s Centres at risk

In November we found out that the Finance Committee were proposing to close the Triangle ‘stay and play’ sessions as the Boxing club and former One O’Clock club buildings are being leased to a sports café company. This was a shock to parents and staff – and we hadn’t been told either. We informed parents immediately and led a campaign which did result in staffed stay and play sessions being included in the new contract. However, the current sessions will be stopped and aren’t being located nearby during the building work – although we will still keep asking for this. The future of the Hillbrook and Franciscan Roads children’s centres remain under discussion following a consultation which finished in December. ‘Stay and play’ sessions are a really valuable service for children and parents and for community cohesion and need to be protected by Wandsworth Council even in this times of increasing cuts.

Submitting the Triangle stay and play petition to the council

Housing

We have had some victories on housing and been able to help individual families such as one family who were being moved to unsuitable local temporary accommodation and after intervention now have a permanent ground floor flat that they need. Homeless continues to rise in Wandsworth and families are moved in and out of Bedford ward. If you are at risk of eviction or falling behind on the rent, do get in touch with your local councillor and the housing team as soon as possible.

Community safety

We have one of the most active Neighbourhood Watch and Safer Neighbourhood Team groups in Wandsworth. As your local councillors, we are engaged members of the group and also regularly respond to reported safety issues. We are very concerned about domestic violence, knife crime and hate crime which do not feature in locally reported issues but affect lots of residents. Moped crime is reducing thanks to police efforts on this.

Action on anti-social behaviour

We have helped a lot of local people with anti-social behaviour issues from dogs to loud music and parties and fly-tipping. The environmental health team seem to be less responsive and are unable to come out during the week, which makes getting evidence of noise hard. We have helped over 100 residents with issues and are supporting several more people.

SW12 and SW17 Neighbourhood Network – podcast launch!!

In April our local neighbourhood network group launched a podcast which you can listen to as you walk up and down the High Road between Balham and Tooting Bec stations. There are interviews with local people and lots to learn – including from the self-styled Mayor of Balham, comedian Arthur Smith.

The Neighbourhood Network met throughout the year, offering a place to meet other local people for a coffee, a toddlers play time and arts and craft activities to do together. From next year they will be meeting at Richards Kitchen, 16A Tooting Bec Road (nr Tooting Bec tube) fortnightly on Wednesdays starting on 9th January from 10.45 – 12. We were very sad that John Waterlow, one of the group’s founders, died suddenly in the summer – he is very missed.

Future Tooting – Environment Event

In April local environment groups held an excellent event looking at local and global environment issues, and we are fortunate to have several active local environment groups – including Transition Town Tooting. We discussed energy efficiency, climate change and pollution together and I hope there will be a follow up event. It has been inspiring to go to several Transition Town Tooting events during the year. They have teamed up with Ravenstone School to start a new greening the playground project which we are pleased to support too.

Tooting Bec and Balham Neighbourhood Forum

The most recent meeting of the Tooting Bec and Broadway Neighbourhood Forum was held in December. The Forum is a group of local residents who are putting together the Tooting Bec and Broadway Neighbourhood Plan. The Neighbourhood Plan is a formal and important document that will help guide planning decisions in Tooting. The Plan will be an expression of the views of all local residents and businesses. 

For over a year, the Forum conducted a consultation which asked people what they want more of in Tooting, what they want less of, what they feel Tooting is missing, and what makes Tooting so great and should be preserved. At the meeting in December the first results of this consultation were presented and there were some very clear and interesting trends.

The Forum have been awarded a grant and have used the money to engage Jan Kattein Architects to help develop the next stage of the Neighbourhood Plan.

The Forum is always looking for people to get involved to make the Neighbourhood plan the best it can be. If you’d like more information, please email tootingbbneighbourhood@gmail.com. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Residents Associations for Baringer Square, Rydevale and Larch Close

We have held regular walk abouts in these three estates, with council officers, and lots of improvement have been made as a result – although several cleaning issues are constant problems. We have been trying to support the start-up of residents asssociations in Rydevale Estate and Larch Close, and are confident that this will happen in 2019 –  do get in touch if you can be involved.

New Saturday surgeries – come and see us – no appointment needed!

The second Saturday of every month – 11am – 12 noon at St Anselms Church Hall (opposite Tooting Bec station on Tooting Bec Road)

The fourth Saturday of every month – 10am – 11am – the residents meeting room, Baringer Square, opposite 109 Fransiscan Road.

Happy New Year and best wishes for a happy and peaceful 2019,

Cllr Fleur Anderson, Cllr Hector Denfield and Cllr Clare Fraser

cllr.f.anderson@wandsworth.gov.uk

cllr.h.denfield@wandsworth.gov.uk

cllr.c.fraser@wandsworth.gov.uk

Tooting Triangle stay and play campaign continues

For a full background, please see our previous post on this issue.

Thank you to everyone who signed the petition to keep the stay and play open to the widest possible number of children. We collected 115 signatures and handed this in to the most recent full council meeting on 5 December.

Fleur, Hector and Clare with the Tooting Triangle stay and play petition

Action shot of Hector formally handing in the petition at the full council meeting

We have just been told that as a result of that petition, council officers are going to write a report which will be considered at the Education and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on 7 February 2019. The report should be available on the council’s website from 30 January 2019.

We hope the Conservatives will use the opportunity at the Children’s Services meeting to reconsider the plans for the stay and play. It comes down to four key criteria:

  1. Are the sessions led by professional staff?
  2. What age range of children can attend?
  3. What is the cost to attend per session?
  4. How many weeks of the year are the sessions available?

In respect of those four criteria, this table shows the current situation, the Tories’ first plan (contained in this paper), and the Tory’s second plan after our campaign:

Criteria Current situation Tory plan 1 (TP1) Tory plan 2 (TP2)
Professionally led Yes No Yes
Age range 0-5 years 2-5 years 0-2 years
Cost Free Did not disclose £2.50 per child per session
Weeks open 52 (as far as we understand) Did not disclose Term time only

As you can see, TP1 is worse than the current situation, which is why we started our campaign. TP2 is no better! Our campaign clearly forced them to make changes but the changes they made were not good enough, so our campaign will continue. We will keep pressing them to expand the age range back to the original 0-5 years, keep the cost to an absolute minimum, and keep the sessions available all year round. Thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign – it’s not over yet!

To stay up to date, you can follow us on Twitter at: Fleur Clare Hector

Wandsworth Tories make cuts to stay and play

There was a very disappointing outcome to the meeting on Thursday. We wanted to provide a full write-up so everyone, especially users, can understand what happened, and what happens next.

Tooting Triangle is a lovely little area of Tooting Common which contains a particularly challenging playground, an amateur boxing club, an artificial sports pitch and a “1 o’clock club” building. The 1 o’clock club is a much loved institution in these parts and has been providing various services for very young (0-6 years old) children in some shape or form for over 30 years.

The Tories have failed to properly maintain this area. The 1 o’clock club is liable to flooding because the drainage on the sports pitch doesn’t work. However, they have managed to do one thing right – the stay and play at the 1 o’clock club.

Currently, there are three stay and plays per week. Parents and carers bring their young children to play for 2 hours in sessions led by trained council staff. The parents and carers stick around and get involved in the fun. There’s paint and mud and fruits and vegetables and every parent and carer we’ve ever spoken to says it is a truly excellent service. There are even some parents who went to the stay and play as kids themselves, and now the next generation gets to enjoy it.

So it came as a shock, and a massive disappointment, when the Tories gave us 8 days’ notice that they were going to gut this service. After decades of underinvestment by the Tories in the Triangle, they have a new plan. This plan involves leasing the buildings to a private company for 25 years at a cheap rent, and in exchange the company is going to spend their own money to redevelop the Triangle. Most of this plan is very welcome – fresh investment in the boxing club and the artificial sports pitch will be great.

But this plan also has its downsides – a series of cuts to stay and play:

  1. Instead of being open to 0-5 year old children, it would only be open to 2-5 year olds.
  2. Instead of being led by qualified staff, there would be no staff.
  3. Instead of being free for all, it would be charged, with some concessions.

We, the Labour Party, were amazed. The council deserves credit for establishing the stay and play in its current form. We set out to find out why the Tories were butchering this much-loved service.

Amazingly, there was zero consultation. The parents had not been told. We local councillors had not been told. Not even the staff at the stay and play had been told!

It was clear they were trying to hide it. This lack of consultation was not an oversight, it was a deliberate attempt to keep it quiet for as long as possible so as to rush it through committee before anyone realised what was going on.

Luckily, we spotted it. We immediately mobilised and informed the parents, carers and staff. We handed out leaflets and organised a campaign. Within just two days over half the users had sent an email to the leader of the council asking him to keep the stay and play as it is.

The committee meeting happened on Thursday. We organised people to speak to the committee who defended the stay and play with articulate passion.

The Labour Party proposed a small amendment to the plan: we asked the Tories to continue providing the stay and play. We were happy to agree to the rest of the development plan, just, please, don’t ruin the stay and play.

The Tories would not agree to that.

They gave one small concession to continue “baby play”. But, during questions, it emerged that the new provider runs similar centres elsewhere in London, and in none of those centres does it offer services for 0-18 month olds. It has no experience of delivering baby play.

At this point we are pretty sure that the new provider’s version of stay and play will be nowhere near as good as the council’s current service.

So why have the Tories done this? The real reason is their own poor management of the council.

Wandsworth Tories, and in particular Councillor Guy Senior who is their cabinet member for finance, were so incompetent last year that they overspent by £22.25 million. That is not a small sum of money – that’s about half your Council Tax.

On top of the incompetence of the local Tory party, the Tory central government has cut the budgets of every council in England year after year after year. Northamptonshire Council (which is also run by Tories) has actually gone bankrupt. The Tory government has cut Wandsworth Council’s budget so much that they have to find £28 million of savings this year, another £14 million the year after, and another £10 million the year after that. A total of £48 million in three years. The reason for this? No reason. Austerity is a political choice – a cruel and unnecessary choice.

So because of Wandsworth Tories’ incompetence, and central Tory cruelty, our local stay and play has been cut and replaced by a much worse service to save money. Ultimately, it is the kids who suffer.

In terms of next steps, we will continue to campaign to save the stay and play. It’s not a done deal yet. If you want to get involved please email us at cllr.h.denfield@wandsworth.gov.uk, cllr.c.fraser@wandsworth.gov.uk and cllr.f.anderson@wandsworth.gov.uk.