London borough of Wandsworth plans fines of up to £500 for climbing trees, flying kites or playing cricket in parks

It has always been seen as one of the most innocent of childhood pursuits, a rite-of-passage physical challenge fondly recalled in adult life.

But now killjoy councillors in London are threatening a clampdown on tree climbing in dozens of public parks – with the threat of a £500 fine to back it up.

Children in Wandsworth clambering up an oak or a maple without “reasonable excuse” will face the wrath of park police under a new set of rules governing behaviour in its 39 open spaces.

The south-west London borough is overhauling park rules for the first time in nearly a century, with the threat that anyone breaking them could be fined and ejected by police-style officials.

Harmless activities like kite-flying could attract fines if Wandsworth Council gets its way (Alamy)

Along with tree climbing, such traditional outdoor pursuits as kite flying or a knockabout game of cricket – along with other pursuits considered “annoying” to others – could fall foul of the regulations.

The borough’s previous 27-point list drawn up in 1924 will be replaced with 49 new diktats, including bans on metal detectors and remote control model boats on ponds, if they are approved at a committee meeting on Wednesday.

The rules will be enforced by civilian park police – who dress like the Met officers with a kit of stab vests, handcuffs and bodycams, but lack their powers.

Playing cricket in the park could also attract the attention of park police

Anyone who cannot provide a “reasonable excuse” for their transgression will be told they are committing an offence.

Wandsworth is ready embroiled in a row over heavy handed policing of childhood play after three year old Idrees Waiyasil and his dad were forced to leave Battersea Park when police accused them of breaking park bylaws by playing with a toy car and threatened them with a caution.

Outdoor play campaigners today said that Wandsworth’s new by-laws will hit some of the borough’s poorest children, when they should be encouraged to enjoy the fresh air.

Five bizarre London by-laws

Wandsworth (1924 parks by-law)

“No person in a verminous or offensively filthy condition shall lie upon or occupy any seat”.

Section 54 of the Metropolitan Police Act Of 1839

No sliding on ice or snow “in any street or other thoroughfare, to the common danger of the passengers”.

Royal Parks And Other Open Spaces Regulations 1997

Touching any pelican is “expressly forbidden” unless “prior permission is obtained”.

Burlington Arcade

Paul McCartney is the only person allowed to whistle among the boutiques, after being granted special permission by the security guard beadles in the 1980s.

TfL railway by-law

Passengers must form an orderly queue if instructed to do so to “regulate order or safety on or near the railway”.

They said that the Tory-run Wandsworth council had allowed a Go Ape adventure playground, costing from £20 to £62-a-time, to be built in Battersea Park, while cracking down on youngsters climbing trees on their own.

Paul Hocker, director of charity London Play, said: “The council’s actions seem to suggest they don’t want the poor kids getting above themselves, literally.

“They are bolstering their huge bank reserves by fining children for climbing trees or flying a kite in the park.

“Play is now more important than ever to London’s children’s health but they need places to play free and freely and this under threat in Wandsworth. “

A council spokesman said they were using rules drafted by the Department for Communities and Local Government to “tackle anti-social behaviour” and that the powers had been used by other English councils.

He said: “When we consulted local people 87 per cent were in favour of their introduction, as was the Metropolitan Police.

“Updating these by-laws means we can properly deal with problems of bad behaviour that damage our parks, causes distress and upset to those who want to enjoy them and in extreme cases, may even deter people from visiting them.”

Police order boy, 3, to stop playing with toy car in London park

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour MP for Tooting, said: “We need a common sense approach to this, otherwise bureaucracy could very easily get in the way of friendly fun. 

“I have had a local group of friends contact me saying that they were stopped from playing football on Tooting Common because they didn’t have permission.

“They were using coats as goalposts and common sense tells me this was harmless fun.

“We must be very careful not to overreact in situations like this.

“Any by-laws introduced to our local parks need to serve the purpose of protecting both our parks and local residents – permitting innocent fun.”

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