Search

‘Yuppies will take over Barnard Park when the sports pitch is carved up. It’s kids from the estates who lose out’

PUBLISHED: 12:14 16 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:41 17 May 2017

Highbury Football School will be left without a home after Islington Council decided to get rid of the Barnard Park sports pitch. Picture: Polly Hancock

Highbury Football School will be left without a home after Islington Council decided to get rid of the Barnard Park sports pitch. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Barnard Park sports pitch on a sunny evening last Wednesday. At one end, a group of mates play eight-a-side football using coats for goalposts. At the other end, a dad and his two kids play cricket. In the middle, a couple run widths of the pitch. This was 24 hours after Islington Council’s planning sub committee voted to get rid of it.

Highbury Football School will be left without a home after Islington Council decided to get rid of the Barnard Park sports pitch. Picture: Polly Hancock Highbury Football School will be left without a home after Islington Council decided to get rid of the Barnard Park sports pitch. Picture: Polly Hancock

It’s the last free-to-use full-size pitch remaining in Islington. The pitch will be dug up and replaced by a new seven-a-side facility – which will be a third of the size – and “grass areas”.

This is Islington Council’s own scheme, first announced in October 2015, to make the east side of the Barnsbury park easier on the eye, and reduce anti-social behaviour by increasing visibility.

The public was clearly in favour: 126 letters of support, compared with 42 objections. But David Scrafton, who runs Highbury Football School on the current pitch, thinks it will be the poor families of Islington who lose out.

“Excuse my language,” he said, “but this is s***. Yet again, the little guy has lost out.”

Every Saturday and Sunday morning, up to 150 kids use the pitch for the school’s training sessions, which are offered at affordable rates. That’s not to mention the other footballers, cricketers and runners who are able to use the current pitch at their leisure.

Highbury Football School will be left without a home after Islington Council decided to get rid of the Barnard Park sports pitch. Picture: Polly Hancock Highbury Football School will be left without a home after Islington Council decided to get rid of the Barnard Park sports pitch. Picture: Polly Hancock

There’s a suspicion among parents that much of the support for redevelopment came from well-to-do homeowners of the handsome Georgian terraces that overlook the dilapidated pitch in Richmond Avenue and Barnbury Road.

The new seven-a-side pitch will be split between paid and free use – though the proportions have not yet been detailed by the council.

And David said: “On the other side of this park in Copenhagen Street, you have kids from the estates who don’t have back gardens. Does the council want them to go to the street corners instead? The new pitch will be for young professionals who have the money to pay to use it.

“It would have been far better to redevelop the current pitch and keep it full-size. This is where you can gather people in a controlled environment. We have between 100 and 150 kids training with us. We won’t be able to do that on a seven-a-side pitch. Where do we go now?”

Sport England, the charity that campaigns to keep people active across the country, agrees with him. It lodged an objection to the council’s plans, saying sporting provision in Islington will suffer. It believes a new full-size floodlit pitch should have been built instead – while respecting the council’s need to “take into account a wide range of views”.

Highbury Football School will be left without a home after Islington Council decided to get rid of the Barnard Park sports pitch. Picture: Polly Hancock Highbury Football School will be left without a home after Islington Council decided to get rid of the Barnard Park sports pitch. Picture: Polly Hancock

“No one is saying the pitch is good quality,” David added. “The ground is crap. But this is a very important facility. It’s huge, bigger than an 11-a-side pitch, meaning it provides opportunity. It’s not just about our football school – lots of different people use this.”

Parent Ian Nelthorpe recently started taking his six-year-old son Moses to the training sessions. He attended last Tuesday’s meeting, and was “incensed” at the committee’s decision.

He said: “I wanted my son to play sport, and Highbury Football School is great because it offers two-hour sessions. What I was really excited about is the sheer number of children – from a whole range of backgrounds – playing there.

“It’s quite inspiring on a Sunday morning to see up to 150 kids, and six different games, on the entire pitch. The only thing I can compare it to is the football leagues on Hackney Marshes.”

He added: “Barnard Park offers something quite special. It’s more than just playing football, it’s the camaraderie between peers. We just won’t be able to get that on a seven-a-side pitch.”

Highbury Football School will be left without a home after Islington Council decided to get rid of the Barnard Park sports pitch. Picture: Polly Hancock Highbury Football School will be left without a home after Islington Council decided to get rid of the Barnard Park sports pitch. Picture: Polly Hancock

There’s still a chance Islington’s decision could be overturned.

Because of Sport England’s objection, the council now has to refer the application to the National Planning Casework Unit, meaning it could yet be “called in” by the government and overturned.

Ultimately, however, the council is set on getting rid of the pitch. Karen Sullivan, service director of planning, said: “The planning sub-committee considered this decision very thoroughly, at great length, and considered carefully opinions from both sides.

“The committee decided that the plans set out an appropriate balance between providing space for people to play football and those who want to use the park for other leisure activities.”

Related articles

7 comments

  • It has been EIGHT years of fighting!!! so sad!! There would have been much better compromises posdible, but noone would listen anymore. Now the park will look ridiculous eith a closed, fenced in (3 meters high) astroturf firld noone likes to play on, floodlights uou have yo pay for at night. Barnard Park will NOT be the better place it could have been for everyone... so sad!!!

    Report this comment

    Alice ter Meulen

    Saturday, May 20, 2017

  • I agree with everything said here. If you want more 'biodiversity' and picnic area, why not just fence an area of the park, designate it as dog free, plant trees and put in tables and chairs? Barnard park has plenty of 'green space and space for informal sports' already. The council seems to have only evaluated subjective 'opinions' and not objective evidence on the benefits and costs of destroying the pitch: that is not a sound basis for formulating policy. If it has conducted such an evaluation, then it should disclose all the assessment it has conducted on how this decision will impact local youth and children who are the main users of the pitch, and any attempt it has made to consider alternative plans that would preserve the pitch while creating more picnic areas.

    Report this comment

    Islington_mummy

    Friday, May 19, 2017

  • Barnard Park is also used by people who own gardens for their dogs to defacate on rather than on their own designer tulips. There is no space left which is not diseased ridden with dog mess. Dogs should be banned including the pomeranians of the upper crust. This is about land value enhancement and a view. What next a cricket pitch to replace the new unused 7 a side pitch in a few years time? I would not put it passed Islington Council who know exactly how to manipulate opnion through falsities and fake promises.

    Report this comment

    Perse Phoney

    Thursday, May 18, 2017

  • At last this ridiculous scheme is getting some publicity. Why Islington needs a 'village green' as opposed to a sports pitch has never been made clear. For some reason, the labour council chose to listen to a verbose few rather than the silent majority -who were too busy being active to lobby their councillors or perhaps the councillors chose not to listen (or more probably ignored their objections). This scheme is an expensive waste of money and the process was not democratic. Disgraceful.

    Report this comment

    Hilary Knights

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017

  • The other point not raised here is the fact that this is costing local tax payers to pay for a scheme that goes against local and national policy on reducing playing areas for children - if this weren't bad enough, it's even worse when you consider that FREE money is available to rehabilitate the pitch from national sporting bodies at no cost to tax payers. Apparently the Labour slogan is "For the many, not the few" but I am yet to hear why a Labour led council is pursing this scheme irrespective of the fact that planning consent that has been granted.....

    Report this comment

    Concerned_Local

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017

  • This was always going to happen...and it has.

    Report this comment

    thesilversurfer

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017

  • Friends of Barnard Park wrote the architect brief and sat with the council throughout. It is without wonder that they had letters of support. I feel that mine was binned with many others as it was not in the right format! The council admitted to many discounted objections including from local youth. Check @savebarndardpark which is now past 400 objections. Surely not all of these are wrong. We need free flexible multi-use sports facilities for the benefit of all. Not pretty backgardens!

    Report this comment

    Mark Smith

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Latest Islington News Stories

18:19

The controversial trampoline park being built at the Sobell Leisure Centre to get more youngsters exercising will cost them as much as £10.50 a go.

Sadiq Khan has rejected thousands of calls to bid for the empty Holloway Prison site – but said yesterday it would be an “outrage” if it ended up as vacant luxury housing.

11:28

DJs and clubbers are fighting to keep Old Street’s Magic Roundabout open after its licence expires at the end of the year.

07:00

When Stuart Hazeldine became the latest moped phone snatch victim, he thought there was a good chance of getting the device back when the “Find My iPhone” app said it was in Elia Mews, Islington.

Yesterday, 16:03

A scout leader who sexually abused two boys, assaulting one of them in a field on camp, has today been jailed for 10 years.

Yesterday, 12:59

A person died at King’s Cross St Pancras Tube station this morning after being hit by a Victoria line train.

Yesterday, 11:40

The leader of Islington Council has written to Chancellor Philip Hammond urging the government to lift legislation which stops the town hall building more council homes.

Yesterday, 10:58

Drivers of diesel vehicles will soon be charged £2 an hour for short-stay parking in Islington.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now