South London families fear the “heart” of their beloved estate will be lost forever if plans to bulldoze a community centre and build on green space are brought forward.

Residents of Toland Square in Roehampton are worried they won’t enjoy living on the estate anymore if the centre is “carved up”.

The estate is earmarked for new homes under Wandsworth Council’s 1,000 homes programme which was started by the old Conservative administration and included a mix of tenures.

Wandsworth Times: Playground and community centre on Toland SquarePlayground and community centre on Toland Square

Labour switched all the homes to council rent after taking over in May.

The council revealed it might bulldoze residents’ garages and the community centre for new homes, and build on green space around the playground.

The community centre would be rebuilt but residents said they don’t want the centre of the estate to change, to have less space with more people or wait for building works to finish for facilities to return.

A petition against the plans has been signed by 242 people and says: “Having the community hall rebuilt means the playground area will be out of use for a very long period of time and the children will have nowhere to play.

Wandsworth Times: The centre of Toland Square which is surrounded by homesThe centre of Toland Square which is surrounded by homes

"This local playground has been a lifeline for families on the estate, especially during the past two lockdowns.”

Pamela Brimmer, 82, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service “everybody looks after each other, you feel safe” and families rely on facilities being at the centre of Toland Square “because at least people know people are walking up and down and looking”.

The mum-of-two has lived on the estate for more than 30 years – now her grandkids play there.

She said: “Everybody’s got kids. It’s nice for them to have somewhere because we’re right in the middle where the main roads are and the children have got nowhere [else] to play.” 

Ms Brimmer said more homes are needed but is concerned about the way the council plans to build and facilities being temporarily out of action.

Wandsworth Times: Toland SquareToland Square

She said: “When you live somewhere that’s got nowhere for the kids to play, they’ll be going on the roads and that’s when it’s dangerous.”

Dad Martin Haritgan fears Toland Square will “tip into a not nice place to live” if the layout changes.

He raised concerns “increasing the number of people sharing a more limited space so completely changing the character of the square and introducing social dangers”, adding “the green space at the heart of the estate is being replaced by new, modern buildings.”

The teacher said: “This plan isn’t really with us in mind and they’re putting more people in.

"At the moment we can sustain relationships so that when there are issues we can deal with it.”

Mr Hartigan continued: “But if you overcrowd it you will tip the balance.

"The longer-term residents… I believe will go and then you’ll probably have the landlord types who are renting out to students and, if that happens, you’ve got less people who actually care for the place they live in and that affects everyone.” 

He added: “There’s a balance, it’s complex, and at the end of the day we’re caring about people because it’s fancy to have fancy buildings… but good relationships, a community who can mix, people who can come in, be refugees and make friendships – they feel part of the community, they feel cared for.

"That’s what happens now and take away the space, put extra people in, have more cars, it changes the nature of the place.” 

But other residents aren’t worried about the plans. 

Dad Malik Afsi, 31, said: “I don’t mind. If they leave a play area for the kids, that’s the main thing, as kids in the evening go and play there. But residents are not happy about it.” 

Wandsworth Times: Malik Afsi, 31, Toland SquareMalik Afsi, 31, Toland Square

The first consultation on the plans is ongoing and will move to a second stage when more details are revealed next year.

The sites on the estate earmarked for development have been described as “potential opportunities for new homes”.

A spokesperson for Wandsworth Council said: “The council recently held a consultation event with local residents where views were sought as to how the estate could potentially accommodate new homes for council rent alongside potential improvements to estate-wide amenities. 

"This was very much the first stage in the design process – indeed no decisions have been made on any aspect of proposals.”