A boxing star is throwing his muscle behind a campaign to save a playground threatened with closure as the council attempts to secure much-needed school places.
Olympic gold-winning heavyweight Audley Harrison, who grew up nearby and regularly used the Stonebridge Adventure Playground in the 1980s as a child, lent his support to the children and parents who use the playground, in Shakespeare Avenue, which after having previously fought off threats of closure due to funding concerns is now once more under threat.
In 2012, Labour-run Brent Council’s executive committee approved a £187,000 grant to ensure free, seven day a week access for youngsters and the provision of after school, half-term and summer holiday clubs, however that money has now run dry.
In a statement addressed to all councillors at Brent Council, the Trustees of Brent Play Association said: “Earlier this year we were informed about a new development initiative in Stonebridge that included the land where the adventure playground is located.
“We had several meetings with architects and council officers including a formal presentation at the Civic Centre where we were assured that the playground would be redeveloped, and improved including a larger play area and new premises.”
However in August members of the Brent Play Association met again with a council officer who informed them that the plans had changed and the site would have to be demolished.
The statement adds: “Play is recognized worldwide as one of the underlying cornerstones of child development. Without regular access to a safe play environment, children’s potential is seriously curtailed.
“To demolish and raise the Stonebridge Adventure to the ground is not only a disgrace, but an insult to the whole community who have initiated and supported this project for what was hoped would soon become half a century.
“Therefore, it is not a matter of closing it down to save money, but essential to find the money to keep this facility open and operational.”
Many other children who have used the facilities over the years have gone on to make their names in the world including ITV talent show X Factor runner up Maria Lawson and former premier league footballer Jason Roberts.
However the council are keen to address the urgent need for school places, with almost a third of people living in Brent now under the age of 18.
In an effort to create an extra 9,000 school places by 2020, Stonebridge Primary will be one that the council earmarks for an expansion, and would need the land currently used by the playground.
Councillor Ruth Moher, Brent Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “The cabinet have agreed to carry out a public consultation on proposals that could see the creation of 210 new school places for local children at Stonebridge Primary, scores of much-needed new homes built and a new play area for children delivered on the surrounding land.
“The consultation will take place throughout October, after which the cabinet will consider the representations made, before deciding whether to progress with the current proposals.”
A council spokesman said that a children’s play area will continue to be provided on Shakespeare Avenue, 100 metres away from the current playground, which is currently open space outlined for redevelopment.