Hackney community group plea: “Don’t privatise public park space for commercial operation”

Mabley Green, photo credit Damian Rafferty

Mabley Green, photo credit Damian Rafferty - Credit: Archant

A community group is opposed to Hackney Council’s plans to build another football pitch in a public park, claiming it would equate to “de facto privatisation” of public land for a “commercial operation”.

There is already one all-weather Astroturf pitch in Mabley Green, Homerton, which costs £100 a hour to use, and the council is consulting on its plans to build another.

Planning permission already exists to build a new pitch on the old, disused football pitch in the park bounded by the A12 and Homerton Road, but the council want to relocate it along the existing pitch, requiring new planning permission.

The Mabley Green Users Group (MGUG) objects to their plans and wants to make sure the £100,000 regeneration money set aside for the land is spent entirely on creating the world’s largest edible garden, and not funding a football pitch they claim is not needed by the Hackney community.


MGUG chairman Damian Rafferty said: “If the second pitch is approved, fences will go up to keep the community out of public space and the grass will be replaced with a meter deep of concrete and plastic.

“A once free and public space will exclude any and all who don’t have about £100 an hour to enjoy it.

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“If we allow the public realm to be chipped away at and rented out or sold off piece by piece, we will have no one to blame but ourselves when there is nothing left.”

He continued: “After many years of neglect, it is on the brink of a hugely exciting regeneration led by a really engaged community keen to get out there and build the edible park, help it grow, and show the country what can be done in one of the most deprived parts of the country.”

The group welcomes some aspects of the council’s proposals, however, like the play space for disabled children.

A spokesman for the council claims the Astroturf pitch is already used “extensively” by local sports groups and that school pupils use it every Tuesday.

Cllr Jonathan McShane, the council’s cabinet member for health, social care and culture, said in a statement that the proposals are “really exciting”, because they strike a balance between the different uses required in a modern inner city park.

“All weather pitches allow people to get involved in football all year round and a large number of local groups have made it clear they would use an expanded facility,” he said.

“Clearly some people will want more of one element or the other but our job is to try and accommodate the needs of as many people as possible in a way that ensures the whole park is sustainable in the long term.”

To comment on the consultation before it ends this Friday (January 17), see http://www.hackney.gov.uk/mabley-green.htm#.UtVRrlPErcs.