Sport England, FA and ECB slam Redbridge Council’s playing pitch plans if Oakfields gets developed
PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 February 2017
Three sports’ governing bodies have slammed Redbridge Council’s post-Oakfields playing pitch proposals, saying they are not “achievable or realistic”.
Sport England, the Football Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board wrote to the council criticising plans to move football and cricket teams from the site next to Fairlop Tube station, further down Forest Road to Hainault Recreation Ground and Forest Road Playing Fields.
That is the council’s preferred option, should it build 600 homes on Oakfield Playing Fields, Barkingside – which holds 12 full size and nine junior football pitches and four cricket grounds.
The sporting bodies hit out after a recent Institute of Groundsmanship report, commissioned by the council, found that additional capacity at Hainault Rec could be provided with revised layouts.
Mark Liddiard, the FA’s facilities and investment manager, wrote: “The FA disagrees with this statement because it is already heavily used by existing users so it is unclear where they would be relocated to.”
He said that the governing body “remains unconvinced” that improvements to the pitches will result in increased capacity, and the Forest Road site “cannot physically accommodate” Oakfields’ pitches.
Mark Furnish, Sport England’s planning manager, said the report sets out “intensification of existing sites” rather than replacing Oakfields. Chris Whitaker, the ECB’s facilities and investment manager, added the plans were not “achievable or realistic”.
All three questioned why they had not been consulted on the report, with Mr Whitaker saying “this follows the pattern” with the council. The council’s proposals to build on Oakfields are the most controversial part of the Local Plan, with thousands signing a petition against the development.
Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal has consistently said that the council will replace the football and cricket pitches with better quality ones.
However these letters appear to contradict this, as all three state more pitches will further impact on quality.
Cllr Athwal told the Recorder he was confident the improved sporting venues would be an upgrade.
“For anyone to say that the pitches won’t be better is simply not true,” he said.
“The technologies at the moment are better than ever and we will ensure the pitches are better than what we have now.”
Cllr Athwal also guaranteed that nothing would be built on Oakfields until the wickets at Hainault Rec are “the standard Old Parkonians will be proud of”.
Howard Berlin, of the Save Oakfields Society (SOS), said: “The saga gets worse for Redbridge Council.”
He added: “This means even if they could get Oakfields out of the green belt they can’t concrete Oakfields because there are no fields of similar quality.”
The secretary of state is currently weighing up this proposal.
Council must bow to public opinion over Oakfields: Letters p26
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