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Barnard Park and Sobell Leisure Centre football protesters team up to take on Islington Council

PUBLISHED: 14:34 03 July 2017 | UPDATED: 10:38 18 August 2017

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 Hancock

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 Hancock

Archant

Two sets of protesters teamed up to take on the mighty Islington Council over the loss of their beloved football pitches.

The boards went up soon after the election count.The boards went up soon after the election count.

Barnard Park campaigners and five-a-side players from the Sobell Leisure Centre turned the steps of the town hall into the terraces before Thursday’s council meeting.

The former are unhappy about the loss of the borough’s last free-to-use full-size pitch, which will be replaced with a seven-a-side pitch and “grass areas”. The latter are furious about their indoor pitches being replaced by a trampoline park with little consultation. Between the two venues, more than 500 players could be ousted.

And things got a bit heated, too. Barnsbury homeowner and Barnard Park user James Dunnett let the protesters know exactly what he thought about their counter-proposal for an all-weather pitch.

The sports hall as at June 20.The sports hall as at June 20.

“I’m not going to run on your plastic pitch, thank you very much,” he yelled at them.

Inside, things were more civil. Councillors didn’t concede much ground but David Scrafton, who runs the Highbury Football School on Barnard Park, said the fight goes on.

“We expected stock answers and that’s what we got really,” he told the Gazette. “My son asked where he was meant to play and the councillor said he could still play there. But I don’t think she understood trying to get 100 kids onto a seven-a-side pitch. It doesn’t work.”

Some scaffolding could be seen on the floor 10 days after work started.Some scaffolding could be seen on the floor 10 days after work started.

The campaigners have not given up yet, and are planning a tournament to raise awareness while they wait to find out if the government will call in the decision.

As for the Sobell players, one of them, John Barber asked health boss Cllr Janet Burgess why the town hall “buried” operator GLL’s proposals for the trampoline park on page 133 of the last council meeting agenda, with no details of size, timing or funding.

Cllr Burgess stood her ground, and said there was no requirement for a statutory consultation. But she did agree to view case law stating otherwise when told about it by sole opposition councillor Caroline Russell.

June 27: Not much progress, but some fences had been erected alongside the badminton courtsJune 27: Not much progress, but some fences had been erected alongside the badminton courts

Progress on the controversial trampoline park isn’t exactly bouncing along, despite work starting almost a month ago.

Images taken over the last three weeks show wooden boards went up in the days after the General Election count on June 8, but by June 20 not much had gone on. A few trampolines had been wheeled into the area and some scaffolding had been laid out on the floor. On Tuesday last week the climbing wall had been covered in the scaffolding and metal fences had gone up alongside the badminton courts.

A spokesman for GLL said “good progress” was being made, and work had been done on other areas of the centre first.

And scaffolding had covered the climbing wall.And scaffolding had covered the climbing wall.

“We are looking forward to providing a greatly enhanced leisure offer for Sobell users,” he said.

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