Islington treehouse saved!
Guest Post – Jon Winder, Islington Council
Good news! The residents of Arundel Square in Islington have successfully campaigned to keep a popular and unique treehouse, built by Monkey Do and Islington Council.
The impetus for creating more adventurous and exciting play opportunities came from local residents who felt their recently redeveloped park was generally great but was still missing something – at the time, limited funding and a traditionally risk-averse client meant the scheme did not include more adventurous play opportunities.
However, in 2011, Islington secured funding to improve the play offer, and after talking to local children and adults we appointed Monkey Do to help us develop a tree house. The structure had to meet a number of criteria – it had to be a unique and exciting place to play, it could not cause any damage to the host tree, it needed to be robust and it had to fit into the overall design of the new park.
The move towards a risk-benefit approach to assessing risk in play and the adoption of Islington’s Managing Risk in Play Provision Policy helped to create the right intellectual and organisational environment for more adventurous play.
We worked hard to design a structure that would be an exciting and challenging place to play. A risk-benefit approach helped us to ensure the structure provided an appropriate balance of opportunities for children to test their limits while avoiding risks that were not obvious to them. The popularity of the tree house among local children, families and council tree officers suggests that we definitely succeeded!
After the tree house was built, we found out it needed planning permission. The response to our retrospective application was nothing short of inspirational. The application generated 74 letters of support and only 17 objections. When the planning committee deferred making a decision, the local community were galvanised into action and launched a petition to save the tree house. The petition attracted a huge 525 signatures and confirmed the popular support for more adventurous and unique play provision.
Here are some of the reasons adults gave for signing the petition…
“I live across from the tree house and every time I look, there are smiling children enjoying themselves on this great tree house, I can’t think of any reason to take this pleasure out of their lives.”
“Children need more opportunities to climb and scramble and play together outdoors in the city. This is a public park and should be child-orientated as well as adult orientated: both should expect to share.”
“This is important to the children living in Islington, a borough with very little green space. They are citizens too and their rights should not be outweighed by a few residents that don’t like the sound of children enjoying themselves.”
…and some reasons from local children…
“Me and my friends like to play on the tree house, and lots of children like to play on it so think about others and not just about yourselves.”
“It shouldn’t be knocked down cos it’s the best thing in islington. If you don’t like looking at it why don’t you buy curtains. Or blinds, like everyone else.”
We think this has ended up as an inspirational story – Arundel Square has a ground-breaking and popular play structure and a local community that put in the effort to protect it!