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Recorder letters: Oakfield and Aldborough Hatch

PUBLISHED: 09:15 23 September 2017

Celebrations to mark the saving of the Oakfield playing fields. Picture: KEN MEARS

Celebrations to mark the saving of the Oakfield playing fields. Picture: KEN MEARS

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Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

Oakfield ‘no ordinary campaign’

Cllr Joyce Ryan, Fairlop ward, writes:

In my nearly 28 years as a councillor I have never seen a campaign like the relentless campaigning by the brilliant Save Oakfield Campaigners.

This was no ordinary campaign. They asked meaningful questions to council at every full council meeting since June 2014 (and filled the gallery), held various deputations and presented a near 2,000 signed petition for council debate and had another 5,000 petition presented to Parliament as well as attending most local forums.

However, what delivered victory was the sheer professionalism in the way the campaign group presented well researched evidence to the planning inspector. I was present at the Oakfield hearing and the Oakfield team won because the land is green belt and there is no case to declassify the green belt status. Furthermore, as the campaigners told the planning inspector under the law you can’t replace Oakfield (a playing field) with another established playing field. They proved that Redbridge Council’s case was totally flawed. The council have wasted vast amounts of money gambling that residents would just sit back and say nothing with the clear objective of selling Oakfield to a property developer.

Chris Nutt and Howard Berlin were truly outstanding throughout the campaign.

Cllr Athwal said in council last Thursday that he gave the Planning Inspector “choices”. However, the reality is that the 7,000 residents who objected in the public consultation were counted as only two objections. What a terrible way to treat residents who were given no “choice” by Cllr Athwal.

I say a big thank you to all the residents who supported the Oakfield campaign and all the major sports organisations.

The 60 acres of land at Oakfield and Frenford contain restrictive covenants barring housing development in perpetuity. The reason for this dates back to the green belt (London and Home Counties) Act 1938 which is still in force today. This Act encouraged local boroughs to buy land which created the London green belt as we know it today and also enforced the land to have these development restrictions. This is the reason Oakfield has these restrictive covenants and when the old Ilford borough bought the land they made a promise not to build homes on Oakfield.

To me the best moments of the campaign where the two brilliant speeches made by two young (under 10) Fairlop schoolgirls who both live in Fairlop Ward. They told Cllr Athwal our parents brought us up “not to break promises”. They also said “When Redbridge bought Oakfield they made a promise not to build on Oakfied”. The message of the two schoolgirls both at the oakfield public meeting and at full council to the leader of Redbridge Council was clear and decide and they appealed to Cllr Athwal by saying “don’t break a promise”.

I am calling for two actions by Redbridge Council. The first is to extend the leases to the sporting clubs who currently use Oakfield and secondly to declare the 60 acres of land a “Field in Trust”. This is the best way for Cllr Athwal on behalf of Redbridge Council to say sorry to residents.

Common sense has prevailed

Nicholas Hurst, chairman, Support Oakfield Society, writes:

The removal of Oakfield from the Local Plan is, at last, a victory for common sense. Used by thousands of people each week for sport and social gatherings, cherished as a listed Asset of Community Value, protected by a Restrictive Crown Covenant and nestled in the green belt, Oakfield did not deserve to be put under threat.

Voices were raised in the House of Commons and the London Assembly as well as in our own Town Hall – in meeting after meeting for over four years. But in the end it came down to a single Planning Inspector to point out the obvious. After many days of hearings and mile-high stacks of written evidence he concluded that, without Oakfield, Redbridge would not be sustainable as a living, thriving social and economic entity.

Like ourselves, he recognises there is no need to build on Oakfield since there is sufficient capacity elsewhere for housing, school spaces and health services. And he is sceptical of the reasons to change the Green Belt boundary. In any case, the future need for sports provision can only be met if Oakfield is retained (along with the Ford sports ground).

It is good that the council have decided not to challenge the Inspector’s advice as previously hinted. This indicates the strength of the evidence we provided – and have been telling the council consistently since 2013!

We should like to thank the thousands of people, numerous organisations and some influential supporters who have helped our campaign with petitions, donations and joining in good humoured demonstrations. But the task is not complete. We are now planning for an even better future for this wonderful community asset. Indeed, with prescient optimism, we changed the name of the society some months ago from ‘Save’ (job done!) to ‘Support Oakfield Society’.

Farm decision is disappointing

Ron Jeffries, chairman, Aldborough Hatch Defence Association, Aldborough Road North, Aldborough Hatch, writes:

There is massive disappointment in Aldborough Hatch at the news that the secretary of state will not call in the planning application approved by Redbridge Council’s Planning Committee to extract sand and gravel from Aldborough Hatch Farm.

Soon the noise of water pumps 24/7 will vibrate in close proximity to homes, shattering the peace of this bit of the green belt.

Clouds of dust will descend on residents, children and staff at Oaks Park High School, the William Torbitt Primary School, the Aldborough Hatch Equestrian Centre and the Busy Bodies Pre-School Day Nursery. Members of the multi-cultural community meeting at St Peter’s Church halls and the Oaks Lane Mosque will be within a few metres of the excavations.

The Mayor of London’s officers agreed that the excavations would result in what they delightfully described as “less than substantial harm” to St Peter’s Church but that “such harm would be outweighed by the public benefits of the scheme.” In other words, for the sake of money in the pockets of the developers and the council, if the church is damaged, no one could care a damn.

Redbridge in general and Aldborough Hatch in particular has been deserted and devastatingly let down by elected councillors and must now realise that residents will have the opportunity to show their disgust at the ballot box.


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