Play Space & Community Open Space

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Background

Lincoln Court was designed in the early 1960s to the newly defined Parker Morris Standards contained in the 1961 Ministry of Housing and Local Government report – ‘Homes for today and tomorrow’ and the follow-up Design Bulletin 6 – ‘Space in the home’.

These standards stressed the importance of play space, stating that a good quantity of supervised play space should be an ‘integral part of the design’ of any estate, with play space being ‘the first call on available space around flats where there are children’.

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At Lincoln Court this play space was provided by the three play decks, and one small garden, located immediately adjacent to the blocks. In order to allow easy supervision of children at play, these areas were provided both with benches for parents to use when younger children were at play and, where older children were concerned, were overlooked by the kitchens and living rooms in all the apartments, which are located on the north and south facades to allow this oversight. Access to the play decks from the blocks was ramped to allow a child on a tricycle to ride safely from one end of the estate to the other, across the play decks, in order to meet with friends, without needing to go out onto the street. A green garden area was further included on every play deck for younger children, although these lawns were mostly lost following sub-standard re-roofing works to the garages below in the late 1990s.

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Lincoln Court around 1998 showing the green garden areas still in place on the play decks.

London Plan policy 3.6 (Children and young people’s play and recreation) makes clear that all children and young people should have safe access to good quality, well designed, secure and stimulating play and informal recreation provision, incorporating trees and greenery wherever possible. It goes on to state that housing development should make provision for play and informal recreation, based on the expected child population generated by the scheme and an assessment of future needs.

The Mayor of London’s Shaping Neighbourhoods: Play and Informal Recreation SPG requires 10 sqm of child play space to be provided per child for new developments.

CS Policy 26 (Open space network) makes clear (amongst other things) that development will only be permitted on Amenity Green Space, including shared spaces on residential estates but excluding spaces attached to single dwelling houses or flats where:

  • replacement and/or enhancement of open space of better or equivalent quality is provided either on site or a location within the vicinity of the site, especially in the identified areas of deficiency or high density, and
  • wherever possible any replacement connects to the network of open space infrastructure including the green links or green corridor, or
  • it can be shown that the relationship between buildings and associated open space(s) can be improved in terms of use, security, setting and landscape quality.

Paragraph 8.25 of the justifying text for this policy notes that physical and population growth is placing development pressure on Hackney, including its smaller, open spaces. It goes on to state that to balance this pressure a level of recognition and protection should be given to the smaller often ancillary spaces – classed as ‘amenity green space’ in Table 8.1. Amenity green spaces are predominately, but not always, located on housing estates, and provide environmental, visual and amenity value. They play an important role in areas without access to private gardens or identified deficiency of access to public parks or other open space and have the potential to be improved for biodiversity.

Policy DM31 (Open space and living roofs) makes clear that development proposals proposing 10 or more residential units will be expected to provide 10 sqm per person of communal amenity open space. It goes on to state that where it is demonstrated that it is not possible to provide the levels of new communal (whether publicly accessible or not) open space set out above on site, and that the applicant cannot meet the exceptions set out in paragraph 6.9.8, or it can be demonstrated open space provision in the locality of the site is good, financial and/or physical contributions may be acceptable for the enhancement of existing public open space in deficient areas.

Policy DM32 (Protection and enhancement of existing open space and the Lee Valley Regional Park) states that, amongst other things, the Council will protect and enhance existing Amenity Green Space subject to criteria set out in CS Policy 26.

Policy DM33 (Allotments and food growing) supports the provision of new food growing initiatives operations, particularly on existing open space.

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Existing play & open space  –  Space lost to Hackney proposals  –  Remaining space for residents

The February 2016 Cabinet report on the Housing Supply Programme does not appear to acknowledge that the roof of the car parking decks provides children’s play space and communal open space. These three play decks areas amount to approximately 4,224 sqm of useable play space and community open space.

Play Space

The homes in the existing buildings have been designed to provide natural surveillance of the raised play space areas from kitchens and living rooms. The raised space includes fixed benches and markings/text to encourage active play during daylight hours and whilst there is no fencing or lighting and there are “No Ball Games” signs, there is a local understanding that ball games are acceptable and ball games do take place.

The existing MUGA (approx.187sqm) at the front of the lower building provides opportunities for ball games, including basketball.

There is a small playground for 0-5-aged children within the area of useable green space to the north of the north building.

London Plan Policy 3.6 and the Mayor of London’s Shaping Neighbourhood SPG require 10 sqm of children’s play space per child and it is particularly important that space for children 0-5 and 5-11 is provided on site. The Mayor of London’s child occupancy spreadsheet identifies the following likely number of children for the existing homes and proposed homes (based on known tenure and dwelling mix):

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The 2011 Census reveals that the Woodberry Down ward has a greater proportion of children than Hackney as a whole, London and England.

The emerging Area Action Plan (Towards a Stamford Hill Plan) identifies the site as being deficient in terms of access to open space (greater than 400m from a Small Local Park or Local Park) and deficient in access to play areas (being more than 400m/5-minute walking distance). The nearest children’s playgrounds are at Newnton Close (approx. 425m walking distance away) Allen Gardens (approx. 690m walking distance away) and at the Redmond Centre (approx. 885m walking distance away).

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Whilst, subject to amenity considerations, it may be possible to incorporate some or all of the required play space for new residents within the potential new housing (roof terraces etc.), this is not the case for people living in the existing homes. The existing residents would be left with one small 0-5 years play area (approx. 90sqm) at the northern edge of the site. This would represent just 13% of the required amount of play space for only that age group. Furthermore, guidance recognises that it is particularly important for play space for this age group to be on site and readily accessible. Whilst the existing space is accessible to residents in all three buildings, access is managed by a resident living in the north building and it is not accessible at all times – with access being uncertain and dependent on the availability of the key holder. It is also inconvenient for residents living in the south and middle buildings and does not represent ‘doorstep’ play.

There would however also be a total lack of on-site provision for existing children of the 5-11 and 11+ age groups, meaning that there would be a space deficiency for all age groups of at least 1350 sqm of play space.

Communal Amenity Space

Communal amenity space is particularly important for the occupiers of the existing homes in Lincoln Court as the flats do not have private amenity space and the structural design of the buildings mean that it would not be practicable to introduce balconies.

Policy DM32 requires 10sqm of communal open space per person. Using the number of bed spaces as an indication of maximum occupancy, the existing housing can be expected to accommodate up to 780 people (generating a need for 7,800sqm) and the proposed situation would be expected to accommodate up to 1,156 people (generating a need for 11,560sqm).

Whilst, subject to amenity considerations, it may be possible to incorporate some or all of the required communal space for the new residents within the potential new housing (roof terraces etc.), this is not the case for people living in the existing homes. They would be left with the 3,267sqm of useable green space along the western edge of the site. This would represent just 42% of the required amount of communal open space for existing residents, not including the insufficient amount of play space.

As stated above, the site is within an area that is identified as being deficient of open space. While it is also adjacent to an area of Metropolitan Open Land, this MOL is in fact mainly standing water (with only narrow strips of land) and is a Site of Interest for Nature Conservation managed as a wildlife area, making it unsuitable for informal socialising and larger gatherings, or for play. This underlines the importance of adequate on-site provision.

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