'Outrageous' segregated playground sparks fury

Children have to play in separate playgrounds depending on whether their family owns their home in a London development.
Children have to play in separate playgrounds depending on whether their family owns their home in a London development.
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A housing developer has been slammed for segregating rich and poor children into separate playgrounds on a housing estate.

Henley Homes has drawn widespread condemnation following its placement of barriers to prevent children living in social housing from accessing a grassy play area right outside their front doors.

This area is reserved for residents of the nearby private housing estate and hedged off.

Social housing residents - who live in a building called Wren Mews - must use a much smaller bark-covered strip.

'Poor' and 'rich' playgrounds

Claudia Cifuentes, 38, said she was told when she moved in that she and children Louisa, six, and Juan Jose, 14, were not allowed in the central area.

She told the Metro, "In summer there are children playing there and I see the children living above me looking over. It’s heartbreaking and sad to see.

"The tiny playground on our side isn’t good at all. My son got a lot of splinters on his knees and hands from the bark but the other play area has grass."

The segregation has drawn heavy criticism from across parliament.

Housing secretary James Brokenshire and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have both denounced the separate playground - revealed by Guardian Cities - at the Baylis Old School complex in Lambeth, south London.

The housing secretary tweeted, "Kids being excluded from enjoying a play area on the same development because they live in social housing is outrageous."

Many others have weighed in on social media, urging Henley Homes to change the rules.

Heidy Geismar tweeted, "This is what happens when councils no longer run public playgrounds. Invest more in public sector not private developers."

Lambeth council has also come under fire for letting the developers make the decision.

Petition

The council's Green Party has started a petition to end the playground segregation and has reported that the council is "under pressure" to pay attention.

Lambeth council gave permission in 2013 for 149 houses and flats to be built on the site, which used to house a school.

A condition was put in place that specified 60 of the properties must be reserved for people unable to afford the private flats, which cost up to £615,000. The council said there was supposed to be equal access to public areas.

But a hedge was planted, blocking off the children from the social housing from the grassy play area, which comes with a swing. Henley Homes sold the two separate freeholds - one social housing and one private homes - to different groups.

It said that the hedge marks the border between the two parts of the development.

The developer insisted it “never had an issue” with all residents using the public space in the centre but was advised the sites had to be split to allow for the two freeholds.

Warwick Estates, which manages the private part of the development, confirmed social housing tenants could not use the grassy area. It said that this is because the families living in the social housing do not contribute towards the service charges.