Monkhams ward could get outdoor play area if funding is found

Children could be closer to getting somewhere to play outdoors in Woodford Green’s Monkhams ward if a funding shortfall can be overcome.

The ward has no outdoor playground and a stumbling block for the past four years has been the difficulty of building one on Epping Forest land.

The City of London Corporation, which protects Epping Forest, opposes any fenced play areas and has rejected a number of proposals from Redbridge Council over the past four years.

But Iain Varah, chief executive of Vision Redbridge, which runs the council’s leisure services, told councillors on Tuesday that the corporation is willing to consider “natural” play areas, which have features such as log stepping stones, in the west of the borough.

He said: “It’s about natural play. They don’t want yellow and red swings.

“They’ve got an obligation to be stewards in relation to their parks and open spaces.”

Corporation officers with Vision Redbridge will visit other natural play areas in the borough, including Ray Park in Woodford Green which is unfenced, to see what could be done.

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But Mr Varah told the overview committee meeting in Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford on Tuesday: “It’s a question of funding.”

Cllr Elaine Norman said an example of a successful play park in her Newbury ward could be followed.

Residents formed a charity and gained external funding to build a play area on allotments in Vicarage Lane, Ilford.

She said: “The important thing about Vicarage Lane is it had local people willing to put in the effort.”

Geoff Stimpson, chairman of the Woodford Green Amenity Group, who lives in Beresford Drive, Woodford Green, said: “There is a need for a play area.

“I’d like somewhere to be designated by the corporation, but it couldn’t be anything with tarmac.”

The corporation has recently experimented with unfenced facilities at Connaught Water in Epping Forest and Butler’s Retreat in Chingford.

Paul Thomson, Corporation Supt at Epping Forest, said: “The forest’s trustees would be happy to consider any fully funded and managed proposal from Redbridge Council for natural children’s play.”

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