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Playground site where library scheme fell through becomes ‘boarded-up wasteland’

Labour’s Nik Slingsby outside the playground in Luxborough Street, Marylebone

Labour’s Nik Slingsby outside the playground in Luxborough Street, Marylebone

Published: 3 February, 2017
by ALINA POLIANSKAYA

A PLAYGROUND that was boarded up by the council at a cost of thousands of pounds has become a wasteland and hangout for drug ­takers and resting place for the homeless, residents have warned.

The Luxborough Street playground in Marylebone was supposed to be transformed into a new library but the plans fell through when costs ­spiralled.

The play space was locked up shortly before the summer holidays in 2015 and around £8,000 was spent on hoardings to keep people out. But rather than reducing “trespassing” the move appears to have attracted other problems.

Chairwoman of the Marylebone High Street’s Safer Neighbourhoods panel Yael Saunders said: “That’s two summers when kids could have been playing football like they always used to. Instead what’s been created is a dark hidey hole. 

“It is totally overlooked from the pavement, street and surrounding buildings, so there were no dark corners for rough sleeping or drug dealing. However, now it is boarded up, that is exactly what has been created.”

She added: “The only ‘criminal activity’ reported before was children ‘trespassing’ onto the football pitch, to play football...”

As reported in West End Extra last year, the failed project to open the library on the site cost Westminster taxpayers more than £1,387,000. 

There was also a row about who the play area was for, with some saying it was only meant for the use of the residents of Luxborough Tower, while others maintain it should be available for all children and young people in the area.

Judith Slack, who lives in the tower, agreed that there have been problems with some homeless people using the space, adding: “We have also had rough sleepers in the two undercrofts under the building.”

A spokesman for the Luxborough Tower Residents’ Association said: “Over the past few years the playspace has been underused by residents partly due to the poor quality of the surface that became hazardous for small children.

“It was mainly used by non-residents, which is strictly speaking trespassing onto our private property, and those using it were responsible for anti-social behaviour directed towards our residents, hence it was locked and made only available to residents. The non-residents broke in on many occasions through the fencing which was constantly repaired.”

Labour group’s Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg said: “The area has now, for the first time, attracted rough sleepers instead of being used as a play area by young residents living in the area.”

A spokesperson for Westminster City Council said: “We are currently considering options regarding the future of the Luxborough site, including the playground. The site is owned by the council and the playground was used as a private amenity space for the residents of Luxborough Tower.

“To date, we have received only one report of rough sleeping in the area and teams meet and helped the individual found. However we encourage both residents and visitors in Westminster to report any incidents of rough sleeping via Street Link so our outreach teams can support them off the streets as quickly as possible. Nobody should have to sleep rough, which is why Westminster City Council spends over £6.5m a year on rough sleeping services.”

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