Hemel residents criticise council after toys and play equipment removed from outside communal area
Dacorum Borough Council has apologised to the residents that had toys removed
Residents in Hemel Hempstead have criticised Dacorum Borough Council after toys and play equipment were removed from a communal area outside their flats on Wednesday.
Parents in Aragon Close and Cleves Road say all the children loved playing with the toys and play equipment and it's unfair that the council has taken it away.
Dacorum Borough Council has apologised to the residents that had toys removed and has said the tenancy team will contact all residents to make arrangements to return the toys where possible.
One resident, who does not wish to be named, said: "The council came and cleared all the toy equipment from the communal garden.
"A few years ago the council fenced off a small bit near the flat to create a communal garden for residents, it's only really the ones with families that use it and over the years we have built up a nice collection of toys and play equipment.
"It was great for all the children, they really loved their little garden, especially during the first lockdown.
"In November, some residents received letters from the council saying that the communal area was being used to store personal items.
"They said because it does not comply with the council's safety policy they would need to be removed.
"They asked for all items to be removed by the 30th December, or they would remove them all, residents complained and they responded by saying that the larger play equipment could not be risk assessed and would have to be removed.
"They said that we could take toys down there but then we would have to take them away with us, we live in flats, most of them two-bedroom, where are we supposed to keep those toys in a flat?
"When no one came on in December we thought the council must have changed their mind after all the complaints but they turned up yesterday (Wednesday) with no warning and just got rid of all the toys and play equipment into the back of a council truck.
"I complained to the council and I got a message back saying that the communal areas are not designed to be managed play areas and the council has concerns that any play equipment that us used and not adequately maintained could pose a risk to children's safety.
"I don't think it's right that they have done this, there was no problem with the toys, all the children loved them."
Stacey, of Cleves Road, added: "I had toys taken away by the council in the first lockdown, when the playgrounds closed, we put some garden toys out the front for all the children to play and then someone from the council came and took them away.
"Then we had some other toys donated for the children and we put them out the back in the area and all the children played out there, they all loved it, they were all out there playing.
"Yesterday, I heard some banging outside, and I went out to see what was going on and people removing the toys.
"They said they had sent a letter but I never received a letter. I think it is so unfair to the children that the council have taken their toys.
"They took everything except the big play equipment, which they could not dismantle.
"They said the toys and play equipment could be dangerous for the children and I asked how, there are always adults out here with their children.
"The council need to sort their priorities out, they have people and children living in these flats that are full of mould and falling apart, but they want to come and take children's toys off them, rather than sorting that out."
A spokesperson for Dacorum Borough Council said: "Firstly, we would like to take the opportunity to apologise to all the residents that have had toys removed, at what is already a difficult time.
"When we wrote to residents in November to advise them that items would be removed from communal areas if not claimed, we had not anticipated the current lockdown.
"We fully understand that the timing of the removal of the toys was insensitive.
"The donation of the toys illustrates the wonderful community spirit on the estate.
"Our tenancy team are contacting all residents with children to make arrangements to return the toys where possible. If items cannot be returned, we will be providing vouchers so that they can be replaced.
"We will still need to remove some larger items of play equipment, as these pose a health and safety risk.
"We have an active Estate Improvement Programme and would welcome feedback from residents on what we can do to ensure that children are able to play safely.
"We have also recently launched a Block Champion Scheme, and will be encouraging residents to nominate a representative to work with us to help identify improvements and ensure effective communication between the Council and residents going forward."