Plans to charge a modern Orthodox free school for use of a nearby park have been condemned as “outrageous” by a Barnet councillor.
Barnet Council wants the Rimon Jewish Primary in Dunstan Road, Golders Green, to pay for the use of Childs Hill Park during physical education classes. The school has a gate that backs on to the park.
The proposed charge of £21.50 per class per week could run into thousands of pounds annually when the school built up to full capacity, said local councillor Susette Palmer, who has attacked the decision.
Defending the fee, a Barnet spokesperson argued that “applying a small charge means schools act responsibly and parks remain in a condition that everyone using them can benefit from. We are keen to encourage all schools within Barnet to make use of our fantastic parks and open spaces, but this has to be regulated and appropriate fees applied to organised activities such as PE classes.” As Rimon was new “and has already had to outlay some funds for the gate access on to the park [which does not give the school any rights to use of the park], we have offered them a 25 per cent discount.”
Councillor Palmer rejected Barnet’s argument as “absolute nonsense” and questioned why the council was charging a school when there were “no park wardens — no security. All this stuff about children becoming couch potatoes and then they want to charge toddlers to do school exercises.”
Echoing the sentiments, Rimon governors’ chair David Vaughan said: “Obviously we are very disappointed with Barnet’s decision, especially as the government comments on how important it is for children to exercise. What better use could the park have than for children’s recreational activities?”
He said the school would be interested in becoming involved in the Friends of Childs Hill Park, a voluntary group established to revitalise the park.