Desolation Row

At the moment much is made in the news of childhood obesity, screen obsessions, anti-social behaviour and mental health problems. We regularly hear of schemes being set up to tackle these issues, schemes that are often eventually wound up because of lack of participation or for being a drain on financial resources. The setting up of organisations to tackle such problems is of course ignoring, or denying, the root cause, which can often be ascertained by opening ones eyes up to what is happening around us.

One of the most effective arguments for bringing an end to something is to claim it no longer works. One of the best ways to ensure that something no longer works is to ensure that it can no longer survive the climate in which it exists. The current situation that the NHS finds itself in is an example of this on a large scale; locally, in other areas of life, the situation is no different.

This week I was alerted to the fact that the children’s playground on Tunstall Road, set back from the road next door to Vale Circles, no longer exists. This was a small playground with equipment that was ideal for small children, up to about 10 years old, in a way that other local playgrounds were not. Despite the occasional anti-social actions that have required sorting out the playground has been a valuable resource for those with children living in the surrounding area, cut off from other nearby playgrounds and parks by a network of busy and dangerous roads. During summer days, this small and seemingly insignificant playground teemed with life, parents sat on benches chatting whilst their children played on the equipment. One major victory within this space was the remarkable lack of dog filth in the space, a problem that pavement’s and parks across South Leeds have been cursed with year in, year out for as long as I can remember.

Imaginary Games on Tunstall Road Playground 2015

Then, a few years ago, a large wooden fence was erected around the Vale Circles car park onto which the playground opened; from this point onwards the playground became a no-go area. Where once it had been populated by families desperate to get their children out of the house and playing in the open air, overnight it became a desolate sea of broken vodka bottles, dropped trays of half eaten fast food purchased around Dewsbury Road and quite often puddles of vomit from heady teenage nights. The new clientele of this playground were no longer concerned with imaginary games as they climbed all over the equipment and rode their scooters around the park but instead focused on getting trashed away from the prying eyes of the public, now on the other side of the 7ft wooden fence separating playground from road. The presence of the fence has been bad not just for users of the playground but also users of Vale Circles car park who have also had their cars damaged since it was erected.

Tunstall Road Playground 2018

Despite taking part in a consultation regarding the future of the Tunstall Road Playground and the Garnet’s green space, behind the delivery access entrance to Iceland, the fence remains in place, although now partially smashed by vandals. The park equipment meanwhile has gone, another local resource lost to grim inevitability. The real losers here are the people who relied on this relatively safe space as a place to allow their children the freedom to run around in an area in which gardens are not a given. As for childhood obesety, screen obsessions, anti-social behaviour and mental health problems, this is where it begins and only proper planning and maintenance of the built environment can provide the basis for a healthy future, in mind and body.


5 Replies to “Desolation Row”

  1. Bruce, I gather the playground is due to be re-installed on the Garnet green space, where it will be overlooked by / part of a neighbourhood – no bad thing? (But it’d be good to check this with the Council officers.) The old playground space is going to be enclosed, and become an edible garden run by the Vale in partnership with other orgs like TCV (who also run Skelton Grange). So it’s maybe not a terrible result – but it would have been altogether better to keep local people updated.

  2. My understanding (and I’m happy to be corrected if not the case but it’s what I’ve been told) is the fence was added as the request of The Vale to give it secluded access, as some of its user wanted not to be seen entering due the nature of the support it provides. It is safe to say this caused the playground to become a no-go area as the playground also become a safe and secluded zone for people engaging in less than community supportive activity as you point out.

    Residents on the Garnets who directly lived next to it became the subject a lot of anti-social behaviour and criminal damaged and pretty much every door we knock on who answered during our street surgeries there made it clear – remove the fence or remove the playground. There is never any justification for such behaviour.

    LCC’s judgment seems to have been the playground removal was the lesser of evils – removing the incentive of it being a useful place for those causing anti-social behaviour as they had nothing to sit on and maintaining the obscured access some people attending The Vale wanted.

    This of a good example of those difficult choices in local government where pretty much whatever you do – someone loses out and the judgment is by how much and who. With other playground facilities, a short walk away – even if over very busy roads – on Hunslet Moor and slightly further away on Cross Flatts Park, it seems the LCC judgment was the loss of the local playground wasn’t as substantial a concern as not keeping the fence or the ongoing costs created by managing the anti-social behaviour and repairing the damage.

  3. So the council have turned up in the little park behind Iceland in the Garnets and just cut the trees down this morning (residents not told before hand).
    Yes there is a problem with alcohol and drug use sometimes at this site, LCC’s answer is to cut the trees down, yeah that will sort it out, well done LCC.

  4. I share a similar tone to Bruce. Maybe the problem is how the law deals with the “out of control” teenagers. I have had many problems with teenagers feeling that all they need is a good clout, but unfortunately they know only too well us adults live in fear of the law and won’t resort to this method. When the police get involved with problem teenagers the teenagers are told off but get straight back to mischief. The telling off they get is obviously not good enough. The problem with teenagers is out of control and needs to be addressed in it’s entirety. Like for most us when we were young there were plently of opportunities to make extra money, like paper rounds, & milk rounds. Now thanks to the supermarkets selling the milk, and like here on this web site there is no need for papers to be delivered these jobs are now almost extinct. It really is a let down that local authority doesn’t seem to recognize this and it would be a great joy to know the council will look into making real small part time jobs as such available to the 12-17 year olds. Apologies if this issue has been already addressed and I have missed it, but I do not see any opportunties for teenagers to make money and enjoy activities, hobbies etc.

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