FA ‘disappointed’ at decision to include Oakfields in Local Plan

Oakfield Playing Fields in Barkingside

Oakfield Playing Fields in Barkingside - Credit: Archant

The FA has expressed its disappointment after the council included a playing field in its Local Plan on Thursday.

SOS chairman Chris Nutt

SOS chairman Chris Nutt - Credit: Archant

It comes after Redbridge Council earmarked Oakfield Playing Fields, Fencepiece Road, Barkingside, for development in its plan, which was agreed at a full council meeting.

It was pushed through at Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford, with 31 votes to 21 with four abstentions. An amendment to remove the site from the plan was also lost.

An FA spokesman said: “We made all the representations we could with the other NGBs [national governing bodies]. It’s disappointing that green spaces are being used in this way.”

But campaigners fighting to save Oakfields from development remain defiant, with Save Oakfield Site (SOS) chairman Chris Nutt calling on supporters not to be disheartened.

Howard Berlin, Oakfields campaigner

Howard Berlin, Oakfields campaigner - Credit: Archant

“I’m still very optimistic, people shouldn’t be disheartened by it at all,” said Mr Nutt. “There’s a long way to go.”

The campaigner is confident independent inspectors will throw the decision back to Redbridge Council to look at following a public consultation, which is due to take place in the coming months.

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He said: “It will be referred to the Secretary of State and then to the Mayor of London, it will then go to an independent inspector. At that stage we will have so many representations, it’s very likely they will pass it back.”

Despite years of campaigning, Mr Nutt said he was not surprised by the decision.

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal - Credit: Archant

He added: “I can understand that the council wants the money but my main concern is the risk to our children’s health and wellbeing and the integration of the whole community.”

SOS activist Howard Berlin also expressed his disappointment after presenting a deputation to the council at the meeting.

“The administration were given a chance to remove Oakfield. They did not and in our opinion, Thursday’s vote was flawed and the decision is unsound,” he said.

At the meeting, council leader Cllr Jas Athwal vowed to build better quality sports facilities elsewhere if development went ahead at the site.

“It would be easy for me to make a different decision because I would walk out of here a superstar,” he said. “[But] it goes against eight years of work.”

He added: “It will be replaced by better facilities and I give that as a guarantee.”

Cllr Helen Coomb, cabinet member for regeneration, property and planning, said the council was struggling to meet its housing targets.

“We have got a big gap to fill and this is part of it,” she added.

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