Redbridge Council plans to evict a grassroots football club in Fairlop to make space for West Ham United’s training grounds.

The 19-acre Oakfield Playing Fields, in Forest Road, which includes football pitches and the Jack Carter Pavilion, has been used by Bealonians Football Club (FC) and five cricket clubs since 2004.

However, next week Redbridge’s cabinet is likely to approve signing a long-term lease for the site to become West Ham United Football Club’s new training ground.

A council report on the decision says that although Bealonians made a bid to improve the pavilion, West Ham’s “strong bid” includes the promise of a regular revenue stream alongside “investment and employment opportunities”.

Bealonians’ chairman Terry Barlow said: “It’s a huge blow that Redbridge appear to be following the money and has lost sight of the sustainable, long-term value we bring to the borough, especially as West Ham United already has another site just down the road.

“We’re the oldest and largest grassroots football club in the borough and the potential loss of our club will have a devastating impact on the local community.”

Oakfield Playing Field. Image: Bealonians FC

Oakfield Playing Field. Image: Bealonians FC

The club says it is not aware of any other site large enough to serve its membership of more than 600 players in 29 youth teams and 10 adult teams.

More than 5,000 people have now signed a petition urging the council to “keep” Bealonians FC at the site.

In May this year, the council advertised Oakfields Playing Fields’ availability for a long-term lease in the Ilford Recorder for one week and received three bids, from Bealonians, West Ham and “local business” Karatera Ltd.

According to the council’s report, West Ham has offered a long lease with annual rent and regular rent reviews in exchange for support in installing two “state of the art” artificial pitches and adapting the pavilion.

Furthermore, moving from the club’s current training ground in Little Heath would free up the land for “potential housing development”, adding to more than 1,300 homes planned on a neighbouring site which the council has strongly supported.

Due to West Ham’s need for planning permission to build pitches on the fields, which are classed as Metropolitan Open Land, the club is likely to sign a lease that is conditional on gaining approval.

The club has reportedly already obtained specialist advice on its plans.

Redbridge’s overview and scrutiny committee is due to discuss the council’s decision on Thursday 12th October before cabinet is expected to formally approve the move on the 19th October.

According to the council, Bealonians has “no legal basis” for occupying the site, but rented it from Frenford Youth Club, whose long-term lease expired in 2016.

Redbridge says it was not aware that between 2016 and 2020, when Frenford Youth Club moved out, Bealonians shared the fields on an “informal basis”.

Bealonians says it attempted to negotiate a long lease for the fields but later learned that West Ham was the “preferred tenant”.

Oakfield Playing Fields is part of a larger grounds, owned by the council that is also leased by Old Parkonians for cricket and football clubs.

Redbridge Sports Centre, which owns its own land, also rents part of the grounds for outdoor football.

In 2017, the campaigners won a planning battle to save the grounds from being redeveloped into hundreds of homes.

Redbridge Council has been contacted for comment.


Bealonians petition is: