A group of parents in Leighton Buzzard is challenging Central Bedfordshire Council after being ordered to remove outdoor toys for “health and safety reasons”.
Residents at Plum Tree Lane were left livid after receiving a letter on Friday morning ordering the removal of a slide, trampolines and other large equipment outside their flats when not in use. If they haven’t complied within seven days, the council has stated it will remove and dispose of them itself.
The toys – which residents say are not practical to move or dismantle temporarily each time they’re not being used – are placed within a spacious green used as a communal garden by the families and do not block any entrances or exits to the building.
Parents also say it is one of the few places they feel comfortable letting their children play outdoors.
Laura Beale said: “Our argument is what are our kids supposed to do? Go out on the streets or in the parks where there are groups of lads on bikes? My son has ADHD and a few of the other kids have issues as well. We’re out here watching them, we have barbeques and birthday parties, it’s very social for all of us, including the parents.
“All of our kids use it and I don’t see where else they could go. It’s clean, it’s tidy and if something gets broken we fix or replace it.”
Ms Beale is keen to point out that parents have co-operated with the council, moving bikes and buggies outside of doorways.
There are 18 flats housing the residents and the communal green is used as a play area by around 30 children. The residents say it has been there for around three years, with no problems until now.
Another parent, Claire Barton, told the LBO: “Honestly, I don’t think this is fair. It’s nice for the kids to have somewhere right outside their front door with the toys there to play with.
“It was through sitting outside and watching my children play that I started chatting to the other adults and made friends. We pay for the toys, any liability or injury is down to us. We have a really good community here, and if we can carry on doing that, we’ll be fine.”
Town councillor Stephen Jones, who represents Planets ward, said: “It’s a tricky one. I can understand and see that the [residents] are doing no harm, but CBC would be derelict in their duty if they didn’t take into account the health and safety implications. There must be a way CBC and the residents can come to an arrangement that works, so long as it’s not doing any harm and the council deems it safe.”
A spokesman for Central Beds Council added: “The council is committed to encouraging children to play outside and to enjoy socialising with each other. We apologise to residents of Plum Tree Lane if the letter sent to them was not as clear as it could have been.
“In recent weeks we’ve undertaken inspections of many of our shared communal areas. We are asking residents to remove items when they are not in use, and for the items to be put away at the end of the day.
“When children use communal areas such as shared gardens, we are responsible for ensuring that these facilities are safe and clear so that everyone can enjoy the space. If there was an accident, the council could be asked to explain why unsafe items were left in the area.
“This week we will be visiting Plum Tree Lane to speak to residents, and to find solutions that meet everyone’s needs. We hope to provide storage facilities so that any toys and other items can be put safely away when they are not in use.”
> Residents have set up an online petition over the issue. See it here https://bit.ly/2MXUHPw