Wandsworth Council has hit back at claims it will fine children for flying kites and climbing trees when its newly updated by-laws come into force.

The by-laws, which will affect the 42 parks and open spaces in the borough, are due to be debated at a council meeting this Wednesday after a year-long public consultation.

It has been widely reported in national papers that the council will fine children £500 for climbing trees or playing games if the rules are passed, but the council say this is “ridiculous” and “fake news”.

The by-laws, which are in place in 14 other London boroughs, state “no person shall without reasonable excuse climb any wall or fence in or enclosing the ground, or any tree, or any barrier, railing, post or other structure”.

Wandsworth Times:

But many park by-laws, some of which date back to the early 1900s, are not enforced.

For example, in the Royal Parks by-laws it states no one can “play any game or engage in any form of sport or exercise” and if someone is not under the age of 10, they cannot use a skateboard or rollerblades.

Wandsworth Times:

Responding to the news coverage, deputy leader Councillor Jonathan Cook, said: “We’re horrified by it.

“It’s a classic case of fake news.

“This is about stopping antisocial behaviour.

“For example, if you’ve got a 20-stone bloke who’s inebriated coming from a pub next to Battersea Park and he’s crashing round in a tree breaking branches then obviously we might have a word with him.

“But nobody in a million years is going to want to stop a child playing with a kite or messing about in a tree- that’s what childhood is about and what are parks are for.

“We are just updating some of the by-laws, not all of them, because we have 42 parks and open spaces in Wandsworth and some of them weren’t covered by any by-laws and others were covered by by-laws that dated from 1924.

“One of the by-laws said you can’t graze a donkey- I haven’t seen any donkeys around Wandsworth parks.

“Equally drones didn’t exist in 1924 and all sorts of other things so it’s just about updating.

“14 other boroughs have exactly the same by-laws.

“Dozens of councils in the rest of the country have the same because they are the standard Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's modern set of by-laws.

“We’re really unhappy that we’ve been highlighted as what we’re doing is no way unusual.”

The council began consulting on the by-laws last year “to tackle anti-social behaviour” and 86 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposals.

The consultation went to committee in the summer and was voted through by all Labour and Conservative councillors.

Cllr Cook said: “This is not about party politics- it was voted for because it’s just common sense.”

The council is putting official letters of complaints into some national papers as a result of the negative coverage.

Cllr Cook added: “We really feel like we’ve been stitched up.

“It’s just so frustrating because we’re really proud of our parks- they’re wonderful places, we don’t want anyone to be worried because there’s no reason to be.

“It’s all in the implementation. No one’s going to be bothered about a child climbing in a tree.”

The fine for breaking the by-laws will be £500, significantly higher than other councils. The maximum fine in Richmond by comparison is £50.

However, Cllr Cook said the £500 fine would only apply to anti-social behaviour.

“Flytipping is another example or travellers setting up.

“The key thing is consideration for other people.

“We want as many people as possible to enjoy the parks in as many ways as possible.

“And we want children flying kites in our parks as much as they want to.”

Andy Gibbons, Wandsworth Labour's finance speaker, said: “Wandsworth Labour welcomes the cross-party agreement that children under 18 won’t be prosecuted for infringing the new bylaws and the review of how these are enforced to protect the freedoms of all parks users.

“We would not have supported these rules without firm safeguards.

“This is a common sense approach to making sure we have the right balance between people using the parks for enjoyment, whilst preventing dangerous and anti-social behaviour.”

However, he said it is “no good” that Cllr Cook called the “widespread concern about these new rules.. fake news”.

Mr Gibbons said: “It is the job of the council to consult and in this case it didn’t do well enough.”

Brent, Bromley, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Fulham, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest all have the same by-laws Wandsworth is planning to bring in.

The by-laws will be enforced by parks and events police, which are separate from the Met Police but have powers of arrest.