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Cricketers and footballers laugh at council promises following Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend gig

PUBLISHED: 11:38 14 March 2013 | UPDATED: 11:56 14 March 2013

The damaged cricket pitches last week

The damaged cricket pitches last week

Archant

Cricketers and footballers have laughed at Hackney Council’s claims it would quickly repair Hackney Marshes should more major events like the Radio 1 mega pop concert be held there.

Nine months on from the Hackney Weekend gig, their pitches are still unusable because of damage inflicted by heavy lorries churning up the land to set up stages, along with the impact of 100,000 music-lovers trampling the sodden ground.

Last year the council changed its parks and green spaces events policy, giving approval to hold up to three major events a year on a similar scale.

But before the plans can become reality, consent must be obtained by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) following a consultation.

Documents detailing how the council will ensure disruption is kept to a minimum read: “The Council is committed to reinstating any damage quickly after an event, as has been the case following the Radio 1 Hackney Weekend.”

However cricket pitches damaged during the concert were only repaired last weekend after the Gazette enquired why they were still unusable. About 10 of the 60 football pitches on the marshes are still unplayable because the grass has not yet recovered.

Tom Tanner, secretary of Stoke Newington Cricket Club, which was forced to call off last summer’s season because of the damage, said he couldn’t understand why the council had not fixed the pitches straight away to show a real commitment to sport on the marshes.

“The fact it takes nine months after one concert to reinstate the pitches is risible, but they expect sports clubs to have faith in their promises that in the future they will reinstate quickly,” he said.

“The crazy thing is that the council went out on a limb to get £750,000 of funding to develop cricket on the marshes and then within a year announced they were going to apply to hold a series of events throughout the whole summer, which will mean no cricket will be playable.”

Johnnie Walker, chairman of Hackney and Leyton Sunday Football League, said the pitches were in their worst state since he first played there in 1948.

“Where does legacy come in?” he asked.

“It’s in the shadow of the Olympic Park and it’s supposed to provide a legacy for sport. If you take away the facility where are the youngsters going to go?”

Cynical opponents have labelled the move to hold events on the marshes a money-spinner for the cash-strapped council – but the tab for repairing the playing fields has come in at £190,000 and will be picked up by the council.

A council spokeswoman said: “The cricket wickets have now been repaired in time for the forthcoming cricket season. We wanted to avoid heavy machinery coming onto the Marshes over the winter, which is why we delayed the work slightly.”

Jules Pipe, elected Mayor of Hackney, said: “I fully support local sport on Hackney Marshes which is why the council and its funding partners have invested over £18m in the past five years on improving pitches and providing modern new changing rooms, a café and spectator area.”


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