Disappointed kids, the Olympic legacy and the Carlisle Park mafia

I know that football isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but at the same time it’s loved by millions of kids across the world and indeed many in the local area. And so it was disappointing to say the least to experience an act of unbelievable ‘madness’ last Saturday morning – which I want to share with you all, if only to get the anger out of my system . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 

If you have been to Carlisle Park on a Saturday morning, you (up until now) would have seen a number of children playing football, most of it ‘organised’ either by a school or local club. This has been the case for a number of years and to me, it is a wonderful sight to see so many children exercising, learning a skill, being with their mates and most of all, having fun. Maybe I’m biased; I like football and I have 4 kids, 3 of whom (including my daughter) play regularly. My attendance on a Saturday is to help coach a newly established Under 11 girls team (the one which I had previously mentioned on this web-site and which, until Saturday, was going well)

So when some of the parent volunteers arrived at Carlisle Park last Saturday, it was somewhat surprising for them to be faced by several employees of the maintenance contractors who informed us in no uncertain terms that ‘we were not welcome in the park anymore’. No prior notice or proper explanation was given, only reference to a complaint made by a member of public that the park was " too busy"

The immediate impact of this ‘ambush’ was that we were left with around 100 very sad children who were denied their football fix on Saturday and as a result of not being afforded any prior notice ,we could not re-arrange or re-locate anywhere. Just for context, I would mention that we are talking about local children (boys and girls) between the ages of 5 and 11.

 

The longer term impact is of course a bigger concern; the various teams are now frantically searching for alternative ‘accommodation’ which of course is not easy, in view of the limited number of suitable places in the area

Is it just me, or has the world gone mad? Do we really now live in a society in which we are prepared to deny our children the opportunity to have fun because a local resident doesn’t like a park being busy? I live very near to the park (I also have the pleasure of living near to Denmead School), so I understand the potential issues caused by inconsiderate parking but surely there’s a common sense solution?

 

The wonderful thing about living in Hampton (in my opinion) is the fabulous ‘village and community’ feel to a place which is only 12 miles from Central London; arguably the best of both worlds. But it now feels as though this is no longer important. I’m not saying that these 100 kids will all turn feral now that they can’t play football in the park on  Saturday, or that this will add to the increasing obesity problem effecting children, but it can’t be right, can it? We’ve written to the local council ‘sports’ contact, who has passed on our concerns to the ‘parks’ section. Not really the point is it?

 

Anyway, rant over. I’m off to HMV to buy an X-box so that my daughter has got something to do on Saturday . . . . . . . . . . .

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This doesn't seem right to me, and I think you should ask your local councillor to query this with LB Richmond's parks/amenities department. Provided you have sought and been given permission and have the appropriate insurances and CRB checks in place, which I'm sure you have,  I see no reason why your team shouldn't continue - it ticks all the boxes re communities doing things for themselves, health, keeping young people occupied etc. I'm a town clerk, and responsible for three play areas and a recreation ground with a sports pavilion, and my council would certainly not ban any groups using the grounds on the basis it was "too busy" - and certainly not on the say so of one member of the pubic. I think you should pursue this. Could you relocate to the rec at Hatherop Road?

That is unbelievable and an absolute disgrace! I am shocked that they would act like this after a single complaint from a park visitor and in the back of mind can't help but to think there is something else to this?

It wasn't long ago that they were talking about charging personal fitness trainers to use local parks, where as at they moment they can use them for free to train.

I really hope that someone - Gareth ;) can look into this for you and get it sorted.

I am speechless! If the council "open spaces" department maintains a policy of preventing use of the parks there will be significant explaining to do. One complaint is not a reason. Too busy is not a valid reason for this behaviour by maintenance staff. You should ask for a written refusal from the parks department to allow the children to play football in this way, otherwise you have a right to use the open space, to meet, to play, to arrange games for children.. surely.?! Is the football club a business or volunteer organised? 

There are lots of other spaces available. Hampton common ( Buckingham field) is huge and would LOVE more use. Tangley park opposite  All Saint's church on The Avenue get far too little use. Hampton North is about to build an all weather pitch. This will definitely need teams to use it at weekends. 

The attitude of the resident is not a surprise. Why do people move next to a park and not expect it to be used in this way? But people move next to pubs and complain about their customer departure times, next to churches and complain about bell ringing, our local professional football club has to deal with people who overlook it complaining about being able to see advertising boards, or complaining about the crowds, or stray balls in their gardens. duh!  

Hello

When I saw the post yesterday I got in contact with the Parks Department to see what the background was to this. It's a tricky situation because, while you can see the argument being made by the original correspondent, the Parks Department also have a good point to make.

Firstly this isn't down to a single complaint. Its a result of several people getting in contact with one of your ward councillors asking them to look into both overuse of the park and the knock on effect of (that old favourite) increased overload of parking around in the area. (100 kids are mentioned, even if 50 of them walked that's possibly 50 additional cars) As you'd expect, these concerns were passed on to the parks department asking if they could take a look, not asking for heavy handed tactics, just to take a look.

Secondly, in terms of booking and booking fees, the Parks Department's position is that modest booking fees allow funds to be set to one side specifically for the maintenance of the pitches, their marking and what have you. Also a booking system allows for the PD to ensure that the pitches aren't being overused and that there is sufficient time for them to 'recover' between uses. They also point out that their fees are set quite a bit lower than other boroughs for schools and youth groups as they don't want to discourage teams using the parks because they're unaffordable.

Thirdly, the PD note that there are plenty of teams who have a formal relationship, who book their slots and pay their dues. If there are teams who don't pay but use the pitches all the same there's an imbalance there.

What they do say, and I think this point was made in correspondence from the Parks Dept with the originator of this thread, was that they recognise that in hindsight Veolia behaved in a heavy handed manner and the kids should have been allowed to play last weekend as they'd taken the trouble to turn up. I agree.

I am also informed that this is currently being taken up at the top end of the Parks and Sports to see if alternative accommodation can be found to enable these kids to continue to enjoy their Saturday morning kickabouts.

well done Gareth!


Gareth Roberts said:

Hello

When I saw the post yesterday I got in contact with the Parks Department to see what the background was to this. It's a tricky situation because, while you can see the argument being made by the original correspondent, the Parks Department also have a good point to make.

Firstly this isn't down to a single complaint. Its a result of several people getting in contact with one of your ward councillors asking them to look into both overuse of the park and the knock on effect of (that old favourite) increased overload of parking around in the area. (100 kids are mentioned, even if 50 of them walked that's possibly 50 additional cars) As you'd expect, these concerns were passed on to the parks department asking if they could take a look, not asking for heavy handed tactics, just to take a look.

Secondly, in terms of booking and booking fees, the Parks Department's position is that modest booking fees allow funds to be set to one side specifically for the maintenance of the pitches, their marking and what have you. Also a booking system allows for the PD to ensure that the pitches aren't being overused and that there is sufficient time for them to 'recover' between uses. They also point out that their fees are set quite a bit lower than other boroughs for schools and youth groups as they don't want to discourage teams using the parks because they're unaffordable.

Thirdly, the PD note that there are plenty of teams who have a formal relationship, who book their slots and pay their dues. If there are teams who don't pay but use the pitches all the same there's an imbalance there.

What they do say, and I think this point was made in correspondence from the Parks Dept with the originator of this thread, was that they recognise that in hindsight Veolia behaved in a heavy handed manner and the kids should have been allowed to play last weekend as they'd taken the trouble to turn up. I agree.

I am also informed that this is currently being taken up at the top end of the Parks and Sports to see if alternative accommodation can be found to enable these kids to continue to enjoy their Saturday morning kickabouts.

So what if there's 50 additional cars, I occasionally walk my dog in Carlisle Park and have noticed that if the car park is fully occupied the Parks Department seem to have no objection to the Bowling Green players or the Cricket teams who have filled it
How about the Film crews and Caterers who often fill the whole car park, but that's probably acceptable to the Parks Department as, I imagine, there's more money to be had from them.
I'm sure the local people didn't object whilst raking in the cash by allowing filming in their properties
Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought it was a public park.
Who was/is the Ward Councillor who is obviously so under-employed to have taken up this 'complaint'

This makes my blood boil, but thanks to Gareth we have all sides of the story. With the absence of enough school playing fields, the willingness of volunteers / parents to train / coach all these children, (and giving them a purpose in life, surely this demands the intervention of our M.P. and finding a quick solution. There is a hint of 'Mr Jobswoth'. All I can add is GOOD LUCK and I hope Sunday football is resumed forthwith. I will sign a petition if one is raised!

Firstly, thank you very much to those of you supporting us with this, and also to Gareth for picking this up so quickly.

In response to a couple of the points made so far:

  • Having spoken to to a representative from the council Parks Department (who I have to say was very understanding of our position), I understand that there were a 'few' residents who have 'complained'. It was 'several' but moved back to a 'few' when I asked
  • I am local (and have been for 20 plus years) and have never been involved in any 'survey' about park use. Apparently, in this case, rather than a survey being undertaken, the council 'took a view of what acceptable numbers are' based on experience
  • The club have been using Carlisle Park for training for many many years and have NEVER been asked to contribute to the upkeep, nor indeed told that we had to book in any way. I'm sure if they had been, they would have done both. So as far as an 'imbalance', this seems rather harsh
  • Interestingly, the 'primary' users of the park are a Teddington-based club and a private school which is already well known to many of us for their own brand of parking behaviour. But let's not go there
  • There was no real initial recognition that the management company had been heavy handed, however in discussion today the council representative did suggest that a more practical approach may have been more suitable
  • The local councellor who has been 'representing' the few locals is Suzette Nicholson. Never heard of her personally. Feels like the few are more important than the many!
  • The suggestion of an additional 50 cars is rather exaggerated; ironically, moving to other sites will inevitable increase traffic as many of us will now need to drive

We will continue to discuss with the council and hopefully find a solution to this problem and I will of course keep you updated. Thanks everyone

Am I still allowed to run in the park or will that result in over-use?

I think you will be fine if you stay on your toes and try to run lightly...

Thanks to Pants1964 on revealing the identity of the Lib Dem Councillor who is representing the few/several objectors.

I had an idea the Councillor was a Lib Dem after Gareth failed to mention his/her name or which political party was involved.

He was,perhaps,unaware himself.

Hello Bill

 

I fear you may be reading conspiracy and subterfuge where none exists. The originator of the thread tells us that he/she lives near to the park and close to Denmead school so it was a fair assumption that they live within Hampton Ward. All of the three ward councillors for Hampton are Lib Dem.

 

On the subject of whether the complaints should or should not have been taken up. What would you suggest happens if several residents get in touch with councillors all citing the same issue? Should their concerns have been ignored?  


 
Bill Rosborough said:

Thanks to Pants1964 on revealing the identity of the Lib Dem Councillor who is representing the few/several objectors.

I had an idea the Councillor was a Lib Dem after Gareth failed to mention his/her name or which political party was involved.

He was,perhaps,unaware himself.

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