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Sobell five-a-side players’ fury at discovering town hall is fronting cash for controversial trampoline park

PUBLISHED: 15:47 13 July 2017 | UPDATED: 10:32 18 August 2017

Sobell five-a-side players Tamsin Oglesby, Paul Millington, Mark Merchant, John Barber and Peter Murray protesting outside the centre about the trampoline park earlier this year. Picture: Dieter Perry

Sobell five-a-side players Tamsin Oglesby, Paul Millington, Mark Merchant, John Barber and Peter Murray protesting outside the centre about the trampoline park earlier this year. Picture: Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

Footballers have accused the town hall of a lack of transparency after discovering it lent leisure bosses cash to build the trampoline park replacing their five-a-side pitches.

Campaigners from the Barnard Park football pitches and the Sobell Centre five-a-side league outside the town hall before a council meeting discussing both controversial projects last month. Picture: Polly HancockCampaigners from the Barnard Park football pitches and the Sobell Centre five-a-side league outside the town hall before a council meeting discussing both controversial projects last month. Picture: Polly Hancock

Work is underway to cover up the Olympic-funded wooden sprung floor to make way for the “extreme” bounce facility.

But dozens of people who regularly played football at the Isledon Road sports centre are kicking off about the decision, and say no proper consultation was held.

Campaigner John Barber said: “As with everything connected to this project, the decision appears to have been taken without any consultation, we are told not even with ward councillors. Questions must be asked about the terms of this loan, the projected return and certainty of repayment.”

It came to light when fellow protester Celia Clarke submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with a list of questions about Islington Council’s decision to allow the project to go ahead without so much as a vote.

Among her questions, she asked for confirmation the town hall had not spent its own money on the scheme, as she claimed she had been told by senior officers.

So she and her fellow protesters were shocked to be told: “The capital allocation required to build the park is in effect a loan from the council to GLL who pay this amount back over an agreed repayment schedule over the life of the contract which in effect comes back to the council as part of an increased management fee.”

John was less than pleased to discover his own taxes were going to remove the pitches he has played on for decades. His calculations put the loan around £2million, though the council has refused to disclose the exact sum,

He told the Gazette: “It has taken our FOI request to find out Islington Council is loaning GLL £2m to build this trampoline park, apparently to be repaid over the remaining 12 years of GLL’s contract.”

He criticised the expenditure at a time of government cuts to local authorities, but Islington’s health chief Cllr Janet Burgess said the loan would in fact help bankroll other sports facilities through interest.

She added: “We’re committed to helping people get exercise. The trampoline park will increase sporting activity among young people and particularly teenage girls. It’s estimated twice as many people will use the space.”

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