Deputy Mayor: Segregated play areas in London are ‘morally unacceptable’

Sadiq Khan's office blasted the decision to block children from social housing from sharing a play area with children from wealthier families

The Big Issue today pressed the Mayor of London’s office for answers about children in Lambeth being blocked from using play areas outside their home because they live in social housing.

Developer Henley Homes created the multi-million-pound complex on Lollard Street, South London, with a mix of ‘affordable’ and social rental flats – so as to qualify for planning permission.

But after permission had been granted the design was altered to feature impassable hedges in place of gates, stopping those from the social housing areas of the complex accessing the same play area as their wealthier, home-owning neighbours.

The development consists of 149 homes. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s team told The Big Issue the Mayor only has jurisdiction over complexes of 150 units or more.

James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing & Residential Development, said segregation “has no place” in the capital, and that the situation on Lollard Street is “disgraceful”.

He added: “Sadiq was elected on a promise to be a Mayor for all Londoners – his new planning policies are absolutely clear that developments should be inclusive to all, and that includes their play areas.”

Murray confirmed that the Mayor’s team has spoken to Lambeth Council, who said they are investigating their legal options to put pressure on the developer to make all play areas accessible for all children.

The Deputy Mayor also said: “Whatever the legal position, we are clear that the developer in this case should realise their position is morally unacceptable and end this shameful practice immediately.”

Lambeth Council told The Big Issue that it did not have any control over the properties and communicate play areas since planning permission was granted in 2013.

Councillor Matthew Bennett, cabinet member for planning, investment and new homes, emphasised that the council had not approved any physical barriers between the social housing and play spaces.

Bennett said it was “completely unacceptable” for social housing residents to be denied equal access to play areas at their homes.

He added: “We will continue to lobby on their behalf and ensure the management company running the site listen to its residents.

“This scheme was given planning permission in 2013 with equal access.

“In 2016 the Mayor of London gave council’s extra powers to ensure new developments give equal access to play areas and Lambeth’s planning applications committee fights hard to ensure equal access to play and leisure facilities in new developments.”

But Warwick Estates, the management company overseeing the private part of the complex, said its decision to block social housing residents from the play area was “fair and reasonable”.

A spokesperson said it was a justifiable move because the families in social housing do not contribute towards service charges which go towards the upkeep of the play area.

Lambeth Council shared a letter with The Big Issue sent in February by its planning applications committee vice-chair, Councillor Joanne Simpson, to the developers of the complex.

In the letter, Simpson expresses her concerns that “despite assurances given at planning application stage”, the “social exclusion of children is being deliberately engineered on account of their housing tenure”.

She continued: “Residents have asked me to seek a solution via Lambeth planning department. However, this is a civil matter regarding the management agency and it is only within your gift to ensure that all play spaces are available for all children to use.

“Please can you look into this as a matter of urgency and come back to me a response, hopefully outlining how this will be rectified to ensure that children living in the development no longer feel marginalised on account of their housing tenure.

“Lambeth is a richly diverse and vibrant community, and I hope you agree that exclusion and marginalisation has no place in our borough.”

Developers Henley Homes had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publishing.