Sport England blasts Hackney Council's plans to stage more marsh festivals like Radio 1's Hackney Weekend

PUBLISHED: 09:52 02 May 2013 | UPDATED: 10:32 02 May 2013

Jay Z and Rianna performing at BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend 2012.  (C) BBC - Photographer: Sarah Barney

Jay Z and Rianna performing at BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend 2012. (C) BBC - Photographer: Sarah Barney

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Sports chiefs have slammed plans to stage three mini-festivals on Hackney Marshes each summer, saying the gigs endanger grassroots development.

Hackney Council wants to stage more huge concerts like the Radio 1 weekend last June which saw 100,000 music fans rock to the likes of Jay-Z and Rihanna.

But the football, cricket and rugby pitches on the marshes were damaged by people trampling all over them as well as lorries setting up stages and Sport England, the government agency responsible for promoting sport, says it is strongly opposed to further concerts and events.

Most of Hackney Marshes was closed off for a month prior to the concert, severely disrupting the cricket season, and resulting damage meant many matches had to be cancelled.

Nearly a year on nine football pitches remain out of use.

In a letter to the council, Sport England said: “Given that damage to pitches was irreparable in the short-term following just one event, it must be assumed that regular large scale events would cause continuous extensive damage.

“This, coupled with the lack of any effective measures available to the council to adequately protect the pitches places the sporting legacy of the site at significant risk.”

Sport England, The Football Association (FA), the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) have all invested public money re-developing Hackney Marshes, to ensure the site which is considered the “spiritual home” of Sunday league football remains a key sporting site in the capital.

The Sport England letter adds: “The proposals to hold regular major events on Hackney Marshes were not part of your strategic business and sports development plans that Sport England and the national governing bodies took into consideration with our investment into the site, and we consider the new plans are a significant risk to the delivery of community sports participation.”

The council picked up a tab of £195,000 to repair all the pitches, including the brand new cricket pitches which had only just been installed at a cost of £750,000 to the ECB.

Caroline Day from Save Leyton Marsh campaign group, which has collected an 800-signature petition opposing the plans, said: “If the council decide to ignore this letter, the petition and the consultation results it will show they are not democratic, but we hope they will make a democratic and wise decision.”

The council’s parks and green spaces events policy was already changed last summer to approve the plans Planning Inspectorate (PINS) consent is required to put them into action.

A council spokeswoman said the consultation closed last week and they are analysing all the responses.

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