U-turn over 'segregating' children at London housing development
A developer accused of "segregating" children from adjoining private and social housing has made a U-turn.
Henley Homes, which is behind the development in Kennington, south London, said on Tuesday that the social housing tenants simply did not have "right of access" to a large communal play area.
But it said on Wednesday it had "no objection" to communal access for all.
The government has said it will investigate the matter.
A spokeswoman from Henley Homes said on Tuesday that walls and fences - seen as segregating children who live in the development - were merely markers between two separate estates: Wren Mews, which comprises 36 social housing properties, and the Baylis Old School estate, which comprises private owners and shared ownership residents.
"The residents of Wren Mews, a neighbouring block, which is not owned or managed by Henley Homes, do not have the right of access to the Baylis Old School estate at all," she said.
This distinction has been dismissed by both private and social housing residents, who say both blocks are part of one development, called Baylis Old School.
"It's complete nonsense to say they are two separate estates," Jane Bloomfield, 43, told BBC News.
The private owner, who has two children, said the 149-flat development had always been marketed as one, including in a promotional video that she says convinced her to buy a property.
"It's a lie - it's all one development," social housing tenant Sarina Da Silva said.
On Wednesday, Henley Homes issued a statement by its chief executive Tariq Usmani, who said the firm had "never had any objections" to social housing residents having "access to the play areas and amenities of Baylis Old School".
Mr Usmani said he would be "leading the way forward in engaging with all relevant stakeholders to ensure a workable solution can be put in place as soon as practically possible".
Mrs Bloomfield said she was "baffled at this statement", adding: "If they never had an objection, why build the wall?
"I do think they realise that this has become an incredibly emotive issue that has gained national attention, so I am glad they are acknowledging this.
"But until that wall is removed, then I will remain sceptical."
The Guinness Partnership, which owns and manages Wren Mews, said on Wednesday it was "in absolute agreement" with Henley Homes that "all customers should have access to all play areas and amenities".
It added it was now working with Warwick Estates, which manages the private part of the development, to "ensure that this happens as soon as possible".
Warwick Estates declined to comment.
Following The Guardian's exclusive story on Monday, Giles Peaker, a solicitor who specialises in housing issues, offered his advice to a group of mothers on a pro-bono basis.
The lawyer, from Anthony Gold solicitors, said he would advise residents on establishing "what the situation is and whether there is a potential challenge".
Meanwhile, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said he condemned any restrictions on the housing complex "in the strongest terms" and announced his department was "investigating this matter and [would] be liaising with the developer and any other parties responsible to ensure children of all backgrounds can play together".
He added that the government was "committed to tackling stigma and challenging the stereotypes perpetuated by such segregation" as part of its social housing green paper.
A spokesman for Lambeth Council, which approved the development in 2013, said: "We are investigating what legal powers we have to ensure that any restriction of access is removed."