The Education Secretary has said children's playgrounds should be free, after fellow Conservatives in Wandsworth backed a plan to charge children to use a play area.

Michael Gove's comments - made in the House of Commons on Monday - conflict with the stance taken by Tory-run Wandsworth Council, which is to start charging children £2.50 to use Battersea Park Adventure playground this autumn.

Responding to a question asked by Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, Mr Gove said: "We want to make sure children can have the opportunity to play and enjoy play without fees or bureaucracy getting in the way.

"It is one of the responsibilities of local authorities to ensure children have an opportunity to play freely."

According to opposition councillors in the borough, the plan for the Battersea playground is being trialled with a view to charging at play areas across the borough in 2012. However, a spokesman for the council rubbished the claim.

The council has said the play area, which is a fully staffed specialist adventure playcentre, will be the subject of a four month trial period - and the fee will only apply at weekends.

The borough's other two adventure playcentres, in York Gardens and Southfields, will remain free of charge.

Responding to Mr Gove's remarks, the borough's Labour leader, Councillor Rex Osborn, said: "It’s time for the Wandsworth Tories to back down from this ill-advised policy.

"Not only are residents appalled at the idea their children should have to pay to play, but the Government’s Secretary of State for Education has also now come out in public support of the right of children to play for free.

"Britain’s parks and playgrounds should be free and accessible to all - and must not become yet another service from which struggling and hard-pressed families are excluded.

"Over the last year, the council has already removed the right of children to swim for free in the borough. Now they are trying to impose a tax on their playgrounds as well."

Ken Livingstone, who joined hundreds of protesters at a "play-in" at the adventure playground on Saturday, said: “Only the Conservatives could consider charging kids to play. I’m deeply concerned at this attempt to turn publicly funded playgrounds into areas which only the rich and privileged can enjoy."

The council spokesman said: "The debate about this issue is missing a few important points. This is not a conventional playground and we are not talking about an area that just boasts swings and roundabouts.

"This is a highly sophisticated, fully staffed leisure complex, more akin to a leisure centre than a playground and one that costs more than £200,000 a year to run.

"Councils regularly charge for the use of sport and recreation facilities. We are simply suggesting that users pay a very small charge to enjoy this leisure facility, which attracts visitors from all over London.

"Over the past four years Wandsworth has spent £2.5m on maintaining and improving our playgrounds which demonstrates how much of a priority we place on them.

"All our normal playgrounds, plus the borough's two other adventure playgrounds will continue to be free."

• What do you think? Let us know by emailing or leave a comment below.