Free Range Outdoor Kids Hackney pre-school told to ‘stop hogging the park’
17:48 19 September 2016
An outdoor kindergarten that runs sessions in Millfields Park has been warned by the council to stop barring other people from the public space.
Free Range Urban Kids, which charges parents £55 a day to look after tots, has been granted permission by Hackney Council to use a fenced area in the Lower Clapton park free of charge.
The “forest school” caters for youngsters aged between three and five.
Sessions involve outdoor activities like den building, foraging and wildlife spotting.
But the council stepped in after Sharner Glover, a member of Millfields User Group, took to social media to complain the group was “denying other members of the public and park users [use of] the small enclosed area by the tennis courts”.
“The business claims the space daily from 9am in the morning until late afternoon and does not allow other park users to enter,” she wrote on Facebook.
“This is obviously unfair and I cannot understand how it is legal.”
Another park user alleged they were told the area was out of bounds during play sessions due to fears about the children’s safety. Free Range Urban Kids did not confirm it had tried to ban anyone from the park for this reason.
A spokesman for Hackney Council said an agreement had been set up with the school because it was seen as “a positive use of the park”.
But she added: “This agreement very clearly states that the Forest School does not have exclusive use of the area, and that members of the public can access it at all times.
“We have asked the Forest School to stop telling people that they cannot enter the enclosed area of the park as this is unacceptable.
“We will continue to speak to the school and monitor the situation to make sure that members of the public are not restricted from using any area of Millfields Park.”
Hayley Mitchell, the director and founder of Free Range Urban Kids, said: “We are ensuring that all members of the public know that they are welcome to use the area of the park that we operate our Forest School sessions from.”
The school has now placed a large notice by the gate stating: “Everyone is welcome to use this part of the park whilst FRUK sessions are in place.”