Council Attacked over Hammersmith Park Deal

Claim that residents were "kept in dark" about lease to private company

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 Hammersmith and Fulham Council has been attacked by Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of the Labour Group of Councillors for agreeing to lease part of Hammersmith Park to private company Sports and Leisure Group Ltd for the next 35 years.

The deal means the park will have 13 Astroturf football pitches - but only two of these will be free to use. Anyone using the other pitches will have hire them from the company for an as yet undisclosed fee.

Cllr Cowan has accused the council of deliberately keeping local residents in the dark about the deal.

And he says: " Leasing it rather than selling it was a ruse that meant that H&F's Conservative Administration did not have to seek permission from the Secretary of State which is what is meant to happen when councils dispose of public parks.

" Community facilities like parks, hospitals, village halls  and libraries have all been given to us by previous generations of people who campaigned for them to exist. A council has a duty to be a good custodian of those often vital community facilities."

The council says the proposed multi-million pound football centre will help revive a run-down part of the White City park. The Astroturf football pitches – two seven-a-side and 11 five-a-side – will be built along with a two-on-two basketball practice court and brand new clubhouse.

The £2.2million scheme to go ahead means that the soccer centre could be in place by spring 2014.

Sport and Leisure Group Ltd, operating as PlayFootball, will replace the dilapidated all-weather pitch currently at the park, which has fallen into disrepair, along with the vandalised changing rooms. The bowling green, which has not been used since May 2011, and underused tennis courts will be removed.

The council says PlayFootball has committed to providing free community use for the full length of its 35-year contract to run the site, and is giving residents free access to two of the football pitches and a new basketball court, at any time, as part of the planning agreement.

The rest of the pitches will be available to hire by the hour, with some discounts for local groups and schools.

A single storey clubhouse pavilion, with a bar, changing rooms, an office and multi-use room, and car park will also be built, while fencing and lighting around this site will also be replaced and updated. The pavilion will be open to everyone during the park’s opening hours (from 8:30am) and PlayFootball will provide funding for replacement trees to compensate for any trees which need to be removed.

Cllr Greg Smith, H&F Council’s Deputy Leader, says: " Residents have been asking us to upgrade the all-weather pitch for several years and we are sure that they will be delighted with the new complex once it is completed.

" We think this is a great deal for the community, local school children and the local economy – not only will these new and much needed sports facilities be built at no cost to the taxpayer, but they will also breathe new life into the park and the area."


August 30, 2013