View of playground area.
Parents and carers want to know where is the children’s play area? This photo was taken in August 2022 after it had been cleaned by the Friends’s group.

I had an email today from a representative of a number of parents and carers of children who are concerned about why Crabtree Fields public open space on the corner of Colville Place and Whitfield Street has not had a replacement playground built. And why is the park so filthy?

Here’s why.

TL;DR — Camden Parks department are incompetent, waste public money, and their ground maintenance team (which is contracted to idverde) often do more harm than good.

The full answer:

As you may know I co-ordinate the Friends of Crabtree Fields and the bane of my life is having to deal with what seems like the most useless local authority in the UK — the Rotten Borough of Camden.

Crabtree Fields used to have a proper children’s playground.

Children's playground with fence.
The playground in October 2021. Photo: Linus Rees.

There was very little wrong with the old play equipment in the park. But useless Camden decreed that it had to be replaced rather than repaired.

I know there was little wrong with it because I obtained an inspection report under the FOI Act. They closed the playground in October 2021. I reported about this here.

The equipment was removed over the winter of 2021/2022. Camden prefer to rip stuff out and rebuild rather than repair and retrofit. They waste public money by spending huge sums of capital but little on maintenance.

I was told in November 2021 that local people would be involved with designs of the new playground and equipment.

On 15 August 2022 I asked about progress and was told: “There isn’t a programme drafted yet, we are just finalising the current projects and then it will be allocating the next batch to the team.” However, the capital funding was signed off by Cllr Adam Harrision.

On 17 November 2022 I asked: Could we please have an update on the Children’s Playground plans?

No response from Camden parks department.

I would prefer the playground to be installed between September and February — rather than disturbing the wildlife and having to leave it closed off over the warmer months.

Amongst all this about the playground I have had numerous dealings with Camden over the litter picking and general poor state of the park. It is heavily used all day, everyday by hundreds of people mostly working nearby.

It is often in a mess and people just chuck cans, bottles and leftover food around. Last year some cowboy builders used the park to haul a crane through it — trespassing and showing contempt for public property.

Then there are all the other inner city problems that plague the park. I won’t go into that.

I have to constantly nag Camden to clean the park. And it still doesn’t get done properly.

In 2019 part of the pergola fell down. I had to make a minor repair myself and put a fence around it because Camden are so useless. It was dangerous.

It took nearly three years of me nagging Camden to do a proper repair. It was eventually completed three years later

Last winter I asked them to trim the perimeter hedge. On 24 November they sent an untrained and unsupervised labourer who proceeded to cut down an apple tree a resident and I had planted and hacked down several holly and firethorn hedges, and generally wreck the place, Camden-style. It was heartbreaking to see. But unsurprising because Camden are grossly incompetent.

They cannot even manage and maintain a small (1,000 square metre) public open space properly without me having to nag them. And even then they cannot do it.

The Friends group do gardening nearly every Saturday morning of the year. We’ve been planting 60 tree saplings every November. And we’ve had real success with wildflowers blooming this spring and summer.

We have brash piles as a habitat for insects and we have many garden birds including, robin, wren, blackbrid, great tit, goldfinch, greenfinch all nesting and singing in the garden feeding on the insect life. At night you can see bats flying over head. This is real progress.

But Camden Parks seems to be hell bent on destroying the place. They are totally incompetent and beyond rehabilitation. 

Linus Rees is editor of Fitzrovia News and co-ordinates the Friends of Crabtree Fields.