Save Hervey Road Sports Field


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Submission to Clive Efford MP

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Paper submitted to Clive Efford MP and Atkins Group public consultation on Playing Fields and green space in Greenwich

Introduction and purpose of paper

1. The Friends of Hervey Road Sports Field was formed on the advice of our local councillors and following a public meeting of over 100 people held in the Holbourne Community Hall on 26th June 2007. Our object is to ensure that the Hervey Road Sports Field, which has been a sporting venue for over 130 years, is preserved as an open space and continues to provide an opportunity for active sport and recreation indefinitely.

2. A campaign to Save the Hervey Road Sports Field commenced in October 2006 when local residents discovered by chance that Greenwich Council, which had let the site fall into disrepair for four years, had identified it as the preferred location to relocate a primary school – Willow Dene School- from its site in Plumstead. The campaign currently has over one thousand signatories. (See website www.saveherveyroadsportsfield.co.uk).

3. The purpose of this paper is to inform the development of the new Greenwich Open Spaces Strategy, research and consultation for which is being conducted by the Atkins Group. It is also to inform Mr Clive Efford MP whom we understand has been holding meetings with Friends Groups in the area with a view to forming a Forum to make joint bids for funding, of which we would wish to be a part.

4. This paper sets out the recent history, the planning and policy reasons why the field should not be developed and offers, in order of preference, four ways in which the field can continue to afford opportunities for active sport and recreation for the local community.
Recent History

5. Hervey Road Sports Field was last occupied by a boys’ soccer club. When this club vacated the ground in 2002 the council did not properly secure the pavilion and changing facilities, which were then vandalised. Instead of effecting repairs, the council razed the buildings to the ground. Despite the complete lack of facilities the field has been used on many occasions and specifically by Blackheath Bluecoats School for athletics and for rugby training. Blackheath Rugby Club has used the ground for pre season training as recently as August 2007. In the absence of any changing rooms the ground can only be used by organisations with facilities nearby.

Policy and Planning Issues
UDP Designation

6. In its current Unitary Development Plan (UDP) Greenwich Council’s Site Proposal Schedules state that:

The Hervey Road playing field lies in an area of local park deficiency. The playing field was originally acquired for a new secondary school development. If the site is surplus to educational requirement as a playing field consideration should be given to its reversion to the original purpose for which it was agreed. If the site is surplus to education needs generally, the site should remain in open space uses, consistent with Policies (O6/O8)

7. Setting aside how the council came to the view that it would be sensible to build a new secondary school so close to an existing one (Blackheath Bluecoats), we move on to contemplate how the Council could believe that this sports ground can in any way be “surplus to educational requirement as a playing field”.

8. Blackheath Bluecoats School has over one thousand students aged 11 to 18 and has no playing fields of its own and is only a short walk from Hervey Road Sports Field. The school already makes good use of the ground, (see 5 above) thereby proving, if proof were needed, that the ground is definitely not surplus to educational requirement as a playing field. There is a crying need in London for space for children to experience the joy of playing sport and applying their youthful energies in a positive and constructive way
Contravention of local and London policies

9. The proposal by Greenwich Council to build on this site, that was last formally used as a club playing field, would prejudice current and future needs for playing fields and would fail to maintain and increase suitable recreation facilities, particularly in the light of growth and interest in activity and sport following the successful award to London of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the predicted population growth. As such the proposal would be contrary to PPG17 and Policies SO1, SO2 and O11 of the Unitary Development Plan 2006.
Health and Obesity

10. Although not strictly a planning consideration it would be absurd to ignore the growing problem, and cost to the country, of over weight and obese children and adults. A recent article in the Times states that obesity currently costs the NHS £9 billion a year. In 40 years time half the adult population of the UK could be obese. 30% of children are already obese or over weight.

11. The UK is currently combating a rising tide of childhood obesity, the cause of serious physical and mental ill health, which is inevitably carried into adulthood. Fitness through exercise and sport plays a critical part in the fight against this debilitating condition. It is simply scandalous that Greenwich Council, an Olympic Borough, could conceive of destroying one of its few remaining sports fields and one that is earmarked for the use of schools, when national and local policy is to engage more people especially the young in sports.
Traffic and environmental impact

12. The relocation of a primary school of 140 or so special needs children and a similar number of staff four miles towards the centre of London along an already heavily congested commuter route will increase traffic congestion, noise and pollution to unacceptable levels in residential roads which are already congested during rush hour. The high teacher pupil ratio and the peripatetic nature of many of the teachers’ employment will also increase car movements during the day. There is no nearby train or tube station. Staff will continue to travel by car as they do now. The proposed development on this green open space will therefore have a considerable negative environmental impact on the local area.
The way forward

13. Hervey Road Sports Field is a vital green open space in an area of local park deficiency. Its area (11.2 acres/4.8 hectares) is arguably the minimum for a viable sports ground whether for a school or a sports club. Abolishing or reducing this long standing sports field contradicts several of the policies of the Council, of the London Plan and of the national government - specifically policies on community open space, playing fields, promoting more sport for youngsters and a more active, healthy lifestyle for everyone.

14. We believe that this vital open space should continue to serve the community, primarily as a sports field for the nearby school, together with use by local clubs, families and people living in the area. A survey of local residents views on the desired uses of the field is attached at Annex 1.

15. We believe that there are four possible options by which this field can continue to serve the local community. In all cases the field would be given legal protection through a deed of dedication promoted by FIT (Fields in Trust), formerly the National Playing Fields Association, a UK wide organisation protecting outdoor sports and play facilities. (Details at www.npfa.co.uk)

The four options are:

1. A school playing field
2. A Sports Facility run by a local Club
3. A blend of the two options above
4. A local park
Option one: a school playing field (with access by the community outside school hours)

16. This is the most obvious choice for anyone who seriously cares for the health, fitness and well being of current and future generations of children who attend Blackheath Bluecoats School. This ethnically diverse secondary school of over one thousand pupils has no sports field of its own. It is situated within easy walking distance of the Hervey Road Sports Field, which it uses regularly despite its lack of facilities. The school has a good sporting track record and has produced a number of extremely good, even world class sportsmen such as the current England soccer captain Rio Ferdinand. It would seem madness therefore to build over this potentially great sporting facility which is so close to a school which has no sports field of its own and is due for redevelopment in the near future.

17. If children are introduced to a variety of sports at a young age it is likely that they will show an aptitude to one or more and will naturally wish to pursue them though the rest of their childhood and into adult life. Involvement in active sport is a positive and creative way for youngsters to direct their physical energy which can otherwise be dissipated in antisocial behaviour on the streets. To build on Hervey Road Sports Field which is a short walk from Blackheath Bluecoats School would deny these children their rights to a full and rounded education including the opportunity to regularly enjoy a wide variety of sports and recreation.

18. Our main contention is therefore that the facilities of the Hervey Road Sports Field should be reinstated, so that it can be used primarily as a sports centre for Blackheath Bluecoats School, and out of school hours, be made available for local clubs and the community. The cost of the rebuilding of the pavilion and changing rooms (demolished by Greenwich Council) could be financed in whole or in part by seeking grants from national sporting and grant making bodies as well as development funds earmarked for the rebuild of the school. The community use, out of school hours, would provide an income stream which would help to offset the running costs of the ground.
Option two: A sports facility run by a local club

19. We have found that there is a significant demand for good quality playing fields by local sports clubs and other organisations. In particular we have been approached by Blackheath Cricket Club who co- own and manage the Blackheath Sports Club (Rectory Field), also home to Blackheath Rugby, Blackheath Tennis and Blackheath Squash Club. Blackheath Cricket Club is very keen to take on the responsibility of managing Hervey Road Sports Field - not just for the cricket season but throughout the year. They have put together outline figures as the basis for a business plan which is attached as Annex 2 to this paper.

20. The Cricket Club is very successful and is deeply committed to spreading participation across the borough. It is the only club in the UK to run 10 Saturday senior teams. It also runs 4 on Sunday, a women's club and a flourishing youth section - with some 150 young players (from u9 - u16). From the Saturday teams, 4 are in the Kent League (2 in the Premier) and they have sides in the Kent Feeder (top division) and the South Thames League (top division).

21. They try to develop cricket within the borough and facilitate cricket for players of all quality and background. Together with Old Colfeians they arrange Greenwich Borough Cricket Development overseeing schools cricket. They have coaches in all 65 primary schools. They arrange festivals and district cricket. This includes secondary festivals and age group cricket.

22. The Club does not have enough space and hire all over the place. On any week from middle of April to middle of September they have demand for 3 or 4 cricket grounds - where the facilities are suitable for quality league cricket. They need more pitches closer to their base. Both Blackheath & Old Colfeians are running at maximum capacity. The biggest constraint that both face is pitches and practice facilities. There are few places in the borough for new teams to play, or pitches that occasional sides can hold matches. The borough needs a mix of playing resources that can allow young players (from development programs) to continue to participate -- along side senior players who are returning back to the game.

23. The Club’s user plan would welcome community users and would open facilities for all local schools. This option would therefore do much to facilitate and develop sport within the borough.
Option three: A combination of the above

24. A partnership between the Club, Greenwich Council, the School and the local community would ensure a long term and exciting future for this option and build on the Hervey Road Sports Field’s great tradition for sport, built up over the last 100 years.
Option four : a local park

25. This option is a very poor fourth. Its key merit is that it would protect the Hervey Road Sports Field as a green open space – much needed in an area of local park deficiency and close to the junction of two very busy and polluting roads – The Rochester Way Relief Road to the west and Shooters Hill Road to the north. As a park it would provide an area for quiet recreation and enjoyment for the whole neighbourhood and a “green lung” to improve air quality so reduced by the proximity of two major roads. It could also be planted to increase bio diversity and provide habitat for birds and other wild life and be an important link in the chain for the Green Grid. It would provide an amenity for informal sport and exercise.
Conclusion

26. The main point which we wish to make to Mr Efford and the Atkins Group is that the Hervey Road Sports Field is still required for sport, for the school, and for local clubs. It is not surplus to requirements. It is still needed in the capacity in which it is depicted in the current UDP- as a Playing Field and sports facility. To abolish it or reduce it by building on it in any capacity flies in the face of local, London and national policies. We urge you to support the immediate restoration and enhancement of facilities to bring this wonderful sports field back into full use.


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