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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Dear Bryan

Depending on what side of the fence one stands it would seem at least one of the Ward Councillors is doing her job as it was Councillor Nicholson who carried the original congestion complaint to the Council.

Well everyone, I have good news to report. The council have been very gracious and have agreed to allow some of the kids back to Carlisle Park on a Saturday. We still have to work through some of the detail and it may not be that we have the same level of access as before, but credit where credit's due, we have at least got something to work on. I guess the real disappointment is that we had to go through this charade to get to this point, rather than the obvious best approach for all which would have been to have an early, grown up discussion and sorted it out properly, rather than the ridiculous, knee-jerk and heavy handed approach that we have seen. But, ultimately, common sense does seem to be prevailing.

Additionally, and to prove that every cloud does have a silver lining, I have had a couple of constructive discussions with a senior teacher and the Head of Denmead School over the last couple of weeks, and they have kindly offered the potential use of their school playing fields to the girls team, should we find ourselves without alternative, public facilities. Which is nice.

So thanks again to all of you who have given your support to this cause and it's heartening to know that perseverance sometimes pays

Lovely to know things can turn out well!

well done to you Pants and everyone else who has worked towards a solution. As Sarah suggests, very heartening :-)

Can I draw your attention to this weeks R&T Letter pages 26 and 27. There is a letter from Cllr. Virginia Morris and another from a Carlise Park 'resident'.  The suggested rise of a 'Friends of the Park', looks like a degenerate step, perhaps congratulations may have been a little premature.

I bet the anonymous 'resident' doesn't mind adding to the traffic around Waitrose!

Hi Ian, I too read both letters in last Saturdays R&T. I would have admired Councillor Virginia Morris if she had said. "I put my hands up, we got it wrong, I apologise, the dispute has now been rectified". But no, just like most politicians she attemps to defend the indefensible. I do wonder if she, any of our Ward Councillers or anybody from the Parks Department visited Carlise Park on a few Saturday mornings to see for themselves and speak to the parents, before sending in the Council's contractors to stop the children playing football? Clearly, Richmond Council had not heard the Prime Minister praising the parents who give their free time every Saturday to ensure their children get some exercise. I see Ms Morris is suggesting forming a 'Friends Group' for Carlise Park. How would she prevent the local 'NIMBYs' taking over and opposing everything that does not suit them? Maybe, that is exactly what she wants. I served in the Royal Parks for forty years. I retired in 1994, I was the inspector in charge of policing Richmond Park and the Royal Parks Mounted Section. We worked well with the 'Friends Groups' but I often felt that some of their members thought they were part of the management team and not just there, to share a point of view. If the Richmond Park Management (All of whom were highly qualified professionals) had acted on every complaint we recieved, we would have barred horse riders, dog owners, cyclists, car drivers, model boats, model aeroplanes and joggers. Instead we investigated every complaint for ourselves, we did not get somebody to do it for us. As you can see Richmond and Bushy Parks are still open to be enjoyed by everyone. I think now, I had better shut up for a while !!! Regards. Bryan.

On a more general note, I can understand the desirability of contractorisation, but I wonder if the Council expects its contractors to speak on its behalf?  That is what seems to have happened initially in this case, and I suspect it would have been better if the contractors had referred the issue to the Council first, before "ejecting" the kids.  And before anyone points out that the Council offices would not have been open on the Saturday, couldn't the contractors have waited until the Monday to take some advice?  What appear to have been very high-handed actions by the contractor could have been avoided if the Council made it clear to them that it does not delegate policy decisions.

I guess like most things in life everyone has a different view on things depending on where they sit.

As a resident: we regularly take our toddler to Carlisle Park on a Saturday morning to run around in the fresh air. It's pretty much on our doorstep yet I've never for a moment considered it to be over-run by traffic, nor excessively busy. It's rather nice to be surrounded by happy young kids out getting exercise and learning some skills. 

Veolia: I notice the council are quick to blame how Veolia handled the situation. Perhaps they can share with us what they actually asked Veolia to do. Maybe the supplier was following the Parks Department instructions.

Parks Dept: Over-use can have an impact and we'd likely be upset if the PD wasn't managing the park and it was falling into a state of disrepair. They should probably have handled the situation more effectively, but it appears that after the initial mishandling they want to find a practical solution all round.

Cllr Nicholson: Wouldn't it be great if other councillors joined this forum and engaged the community? Perhaps they could represent our views more effectively. Gareth - any influence you can bring to bear?

I would also like to add that although it seems some of the kids have been allowed back into Carlise on a Saturday, a large group of younger avid footballers were still refused permission.

Hampton Rangers Junior FC book the pitches at Hatherop and have been playing our matches there for a number of years.

We have invited the group to join our club and therefore the kids have been able to continue to play and enjoy themselves on a Saturday morning :)

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