Published: 7th April, 2011
by JOSH LOEB
A HISTORIC park reserved exclusively for children has become embroiled in a row over social class after a plea for a smoking ban was rejected.
King’s Cross resident Daniel Zylbersztajn has been waging a campaign against visitors lighting up at Coram’s Fields, which contains a farm, paddling pool, playground and café.
His appeal for a ban on cigarettes was rejected at a Coram’s Fields board meeting in February.
The Holborn park’s executive director Octavia Holland has warned that turning the area into a no-smoking zone might deter some people from bringing their children there.
In an email to Mr Zylbersztajn last month, Ms Holland said: “As you are aware Coram’s Fields serves some of the most disadvantaged people in the area and making it a non-smoking zone could mean their children, many of whom don’t have gardens, would not come to the park and therefore miss out.”
Mr Zylbersztajn, who regularly takes his daughter to Coram’s Fields, accused Ms Holland of being “classist and unfair”.
He said: “What they [the board] are saying is people shouldn’t smoke but poor people can smoke as they are too stupid to know better. I don’t think that is the case.”
This week, Ms Holland claimed her words had been misinterpreted.
She said: “That’s a misreading of my email. What is important is that everyone can come into this park. It’s an open access park and no one should be excluded from having enjoyment of it because their parent or carer decides to smoke.
“I’m not aware of any other parks that have banned smoking and it’s important to bear in mind this is an open space and not a confined area.”
Coram’s Fields is a seven-acre park within what was once the Foundling Hospital site. No adult may enter unless accompanied by a child.
Mr Zylbersztajn said an online petition he has started has been signed by more than 60 people.
Patrols to collect cigarette butts from the park have been stepped up in response to the campaign.
Members of Coram’s Fields executive committee have said that while they do not condone smoking there would be “practical problems” with banning it as children might have to be separated from parents.
Patients from nearby Great Ormond Street Hospital regularly visit the park with their parents, many of whom smoke because of “particularly stressful circumstances”, one committee member said.