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Barnard Park: Islington Council’s controversial decision to shut football pitch challenged by government

PUBLISHED: 15:25 25 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:44 25 August 2017

Campaigners from both Barnard Park football pitches and the Sobell Centre outside the Town Hall before a council meeting discussing both controversial projects. Picture: Polly Hanock

Campaigners from both Barnard Park football pitches and the Sobell Centre outside the Town Hall before a council meeting discussing both controversial projects. Picture: Polly Hanock

Archant

The council’s controversial decision to shut Islington’s last free full-size football pitch has been challenged by the government.

Players picketed the town hall in June as plans to dig up the pitch in Barnard Park and replace it with “grassy areas” and a smaller football pitch were signed off.

But this afternoon it came to light the decision had been called in by communities secretary Sajid Javid.

That means it will now be decided on by the Department of Communities and Local Government.

Islington Council’s environment chief Cllr Claudia Webbe said: “We’ve received notification that the Secretary of State has called in our planning application for Barnard Park.

“We are of course disappointed. Islington is a densely populated and geographically small borough, and its parks are rightly very highly valued.

“There are differing views on this project, but following extensive discussions with the community and park users, we agreed a plan, with majority support, that sought to strike a reasonable balance so that Barnard Park could be enjoyed by all including parents, older people, footballers, children and young people and other park users. We want the park to meet diverse local needs.

“We are now carefully considering the detail of the call-in and our response.”

Campaigner Mark Ransford welcomed the news after seeing it on the Gazette website. He said: “We think it’s a vote for democracy.

“We thought the decision of the council was ridiculous. We are very hopeful that on inspection by the government planners the full disaster of their plans will be shown up in the spotlight of a public enquiry.”

Cllr Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury East) told the Gazette: “It’s good that they’ve seen sense, that they’ve actually going to scrutinise this decision. To me, what it looks like is another example, alongside the Sobell, of the council not valuing sporting facilities. In a week when we’ve had this crisis of physical inactivity brought to our attention with the new NICE report encouraging everyone to do brisk walking.

“The idea that the council is trashing our existing sporting provision, both at Barnard Park and the Sobell, is just really sad and I’m glad it’s going to get some proper scrutiny.”


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