Sunday, February 12, 2017

Oakfield: Update from SOS

Here is what is happening with:
  • The Council’s Playing Pitch Strategy
  • The Government’s new White Paper on Housing
  • Our campaign funds, and
  • The next SOS Public Meeting & AGM

Playing Pitch Strategy

The Council is still trying to say that the football and cricket clubs on Oakfield playing fields can be moved lock stock and barrel down Forest Road so as to leave it vacant for development. This is contrary to national planning policy on sports fields. So, we have been liaising closely with Sport England, The Football Association (The FA) and the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to rebut the Council’s latest proposals on the subject.

Owing to the Council’s apparent incompetence this is easily done. We list the many reasons at the end of this update. The Council have not yet replied.

Housing White Paper and the Green Belt

The Government has just published a Housing White Paper which SOS is studying. Our solicitor is advising. The Government and the GLA continue to promise protection for the Green Belt. We are attending the GLA Planning Committee’s seminar, “The Green Belt of the Future” on the 16th February.

Oakfield breaks the urban edge and separates Barkingside from Hainault. It’s been the same since the 1930s when first recognised as green belt land. The GLA say that it should be Metropolitan Open Land and that Redbridge do not need it for housing. It is not waste land – it has high amenity value and is listed by the Council itself as an Asset of Community Value. The Council did not have arguments to refute this when we met them before Christmas.

Those interested in the issues may wish to keep track via London’s Campaign for the Protection of Rural England’s Facebook page. This has evidence and articles to defend London’s protected land. See the CPRE London Facebook page (Link)

The full SOS evidence base can be seen at Save Oakfield Society Representation - Google Drive (Link)

Funds

Many, many thanks for the Donations. These have so far totalled £4,443.56 (Sports Clubs £1,414.56; Barkingside 21 £500; Trustees £949; other individuals £1,580). The latter include £1,000 donated by an anonymous Old Park. The Old Parks 300 Club hope to raise a further £1,800 later in the year.

Costs so far have amounted to £3,134.52 (Website £429; Legal £2,750.52). Trustees have not charged for services, travel and materials. We have just over £1,300 in the bank but need much, much more. Further expenditure in early-mid 2017 for legal fees is expected to be about £6,000. We have set a target to raise at least a further £5,000 by mid-year and £10,000 by the end of the year.

The end of the Society’s financial year will be 31/3/17 following which we will produce our first financial statements.

PLEASE make donations however small or large:

cheques payable to:
Save Oakfield Society,
C/O Warren Litkin, Treasurer,
Flat 5, Thomas Court,
New Mossford Way,
Barkingside, Ilford, Essex, IG6 1FJ

Public Meeting

A second public meeting with speakers will be held on Thursday 6th April at 7.30 in the Jack Carter Pavilion. We trust that the council will by then have completed its consultations and issued its final evidence base. The opportunity will be taken to hold our first AGM during the evening.

More details will be sent nearer the time.

~ ~ ~

The following should be of general interest but in particular the sports club members on Oakfield should take a close interest in developments. It is YOUR RIGHT to participate in these planning matters.

The Playing Pitch Strategy – an explanation

The Council paid for two secret reports last year, by consultancies Cundall and PJA. These were unable to confirm what the Council wanted so the Council has paid for yet another report. This time the work was carried out by a reputable member of the Institute of Groundsmanship (IOG). The Council has again made a muddle of this.

Under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), if a Council wants to move sports facilities to another site the replacement must be new (not an existing playing field). Also, it must be of equal or better quality as the site being replaced and it must be in a suitable location (i.e. not far away). This means that the Council cannot vacate Oakfield for housing by moving its pitches and facilities to existing playing fields – which is precisely what they are trying to do.

They are hoping to show that the Oakfield playing fields can be squeezed into the existing Hainault Recreation Ground and adjacent Forest Road Playing Fields by ‘intensification’. But national sports bodies Sport England, The FA and the ECB studied the plans and said it is completely impractical to fit the Oakfield pitches and pavilions onto the proposed site.

These national sports bodies have joined with us in demolishing the Council’s arguments and finding woeful weaknesses in the IOG report. In summary, they have written to the Council to say:
  • They had not been consulted on the brief set for the IOG. Nor had the Oakfield sports clubs (except one – see below) nor those already using the proposed replacement site. (As an aside, most residents near the Hainault / Forest Road site are unaware of the plan. It would affect their enjoyment of what is now openly accessibly recreation ground. Adequate consultation is therefore woefully lacking.)
  • The proposal is to move the Oakfield pitches and pavilions onto the existing playing fields at Hainault / Forest Road, rather than finding new, replacement sites/facilities. This is not allowed.
  • The Council must find equivalent sports fields not just play more games on pitches however much they are improved.
  • What’s more, the future increase in demand from population growth has not been taken into account.
  • The Hainault Recreation Ground is already heavily used by other Football and Cricket Clubs. Currently 50-60 teams use it on a regular basis.
  • This site might be freed up by moving some or all existing users elsewhere. But to bring it up to Oakfield standards it would need considerable up-front investment.
  • The set-up cost alone is assessed by the IOG as £2.5M merely for major improvements to the ground surface. This is without accounting for the infrastructure of two new pavilions, roadways, parking, secure storage facilities for ground machinery and sight screens etc, and new practice nets, fencing and so on.
  • The surface of the Forest Road recreation ground, in particular, is considered very poor by local football clubs because the site suffers from flooding due to a culvert running through the site. Previous reports pointed to its sloping ground, severe undulations and raised manhole covers.
  • All this is not helped by the fact that the site was previously a post war housing development of prefabs. So, there is probably an array of materials underground from when it was demolished. (This may include asbestos.) This also affects drainage.
  • Very expensive ‘mole drilling’ would be needed every 3-5 years to assist drainage.
  • The Borough’s leisure budget is to be significantly reduced. So, as it stands, the proposal could not be sustained since ground surface maintenance costs will be very high due to waterlogging on the site. Neither Council nor clubs could afford it.
  • There is a caravan site, footpaths and roads on the site. So, the shape limits the potential layouts for the clubs’ facilities, football and cricket pitches and so on.
  • More still, Oakfield is a secure site and suffers little vandalism. This contributes to its very high quality of the playing surface which is the highest in Redbridge - far higher than is possible at an ‘open’ site such as Hainault / Forrest Road. To meet the standards on Oakfield part of the new location would need to be fenced off. This will restrict current openness and accessibility currently enjoyed by local residents.
  • There is no operational business case for relocating Oakfield. It is operated at no cost to the Redbridge taxpayer. The proposed relocation does not deal with the financial consequences. Operational costs would be far higher than at present due to the drainage problems. We could be talking £10m overall cost plus additional ongoing annual maintenance costs that would fall on the clubs and the Council (which is not currently keeping pitches up to standard).
Lack of Consultation
  • The Council have consulted / negotiated with just two people. They have been properly authorised to speak for the Old Parkonians Association & the Ilford County High School Oakfield Trust (which holds long leases from the Council on its part of Oakfield). These organisations (which are not sports club as such) are obliged by their constitutions to protect the value of their leases.
  • But the national sports bodies and SOS say it is vital that all Oakfield grass root sport clubs must be consulted from the point of view of protecting sport.
  • (N.B. the two consultees doesn’t like the IOG draft report recommendations either.)
  • The current sports clubs on Oakfield have not been consulted about any of this. Nor have the current users of Hainault / Forest Road site. Nor have residents more generally nor those most closely affected been privy to the detailed proposals and costs.
  • Sport England and the football and cricket bodies say that in order for a proper consultation to take place, the Council will need to produce more detailed plans highlighting which clubs would use which pitches on any replacement site(s), and how football and cricket facilities and pitch configurations would work.
  • Due process has not been followed because those clubs with a direct interest and accumulated rights have not been consulted.
Save Oakfield Society perspective

The Save Oakfield Society (whose trustees and members cover all the clubs as well as the local community) is extremely concerned at the lack of consultation. This is concerning because it suggests that the Council Planning Officers are seeking a ‘deal’ with one long-term leaseholder without taking notice of the needs of other sports clubs, their hundreds of members and the affected communities.

This goes against the Council’s own policy to engage with local people. The clubs have had “beneficial use” of Oakfield for many years and have put in hundreds of thousands of £s and thousands of volunteer work days to maintain and improve the facilities. They therefore have established legal rights which are being ignored while the Council apparently negotiates in secret with just one leaseholder in an attempt to ‘do a deal’ to free up Oakfield for development. (In fairness to the leaseholder, we understand they will consult their members in due course, but that is not the point.)

The Oakfield football club and cricket clubs that are in “beneficial occupation” of their ground have security of tenure rights under Landlord & Tenant Act 1954. They must be consulted and partake in any ‘negotiations’.

As an add on to this we should mention that there is a restrictive covenant on the land which binds both the freeholder (London Borough of Redbridge) and the leaseholder NOT to use the land for residential purposes nor have a residential development on any part of Oakfield Playing Fields.

And all this before the Council submits its Plans to the Inspector.

IF YOU ARE A CLUB MEMBER / SUPPORTER OR INDEED A LOCAL RESIDENT, PLEASE FEED YOUR VIEWS ON THIS TO YOUR CLUB COMMITTEE AND/OR YOUR LOCAL COUNCILLOR / MP.

If you do so, please let us know.

Kind Regards,
Chris Nutt
Secretary
Save Oakfield Society

1 comment:

  1. can't understand why the homes can't be built on the fields further down Forest Road and if, there is asbestos-related, flooding, and landfill on the Oakfield site, why subject residents to that damaging array of problems? - doesn't make sense, or is someone else benefitting? - just asking...!

    ReplyDelete