Save Hervey Road Sports Field


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30/07/08 Richard Dinkeldein Speech to Council

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SHRSF Speech to Greenwich Council

Mr Mayor, councillors, officers, ladies and gentlemen.

I am Richard Dinkeldein and I am a member of the committee for the Friends of Hervey Road Sports Field. I should like to thank the Mayor for allowing me to speak on behalf of the committee
and for over 1,000 people who have signed up to the campaign to Save Hervey Road Sports Field.

Credentials

The Friends of Hervey Road Sports Field was formed on the advice of our local councillors following a lively public meeting in June 2007. Our object is to ensure that the sports field, which has been a centre for sports for over 130 years is preserved as an open space and continues to provide an opportunity for sport and recreation indefinitely.

Purpose for tonight

We are here this evening because we have learned that Greenwich Council has proposals to relocate a primary school from Plumstead to Hervey Road Sports Field and thus destroy its use for sports for ever.

We have recently been given detailed architectural plans for the proposed new school, which were first drawn up in November 2005, and updated as recently as last month.

We are shocked and dismayed that plans have been developed so far without any public consultation whatsoever.

Local residents have asked us to make it clear tonight:

* that this sports field is desperately needed by the local community, clubs and schools,
* that developing this field would have a continuing and seriously damaging impact on the environment,
* that building on the sports field would fly in the face of local, London and national policies on sport and health.
* that the residents are determined to fight any proposal to build in this field.. a battle that was won 40 years ago and a battle we will win again.

We have been told that a site options appraisal considered six other sites for the school, but no one will tell us what those other options were. It seems to us, though, that only one option is being worked on.

We have also been continually told -over the last 2 years - that no decision has yet been made about the sports field and Willow Dene.

So, what considerations could influence, not the destruction of the field, but the creation of a secure and lasting future? Here are 5 for starters:

One – The needs of local schools, clubs and the community

For example, the hugely successful Blackheath Cricket Club is desperate for space, and Bluecoats, which uses the field, has over one thousand students aged 11 to 18 and has no playing field of its own, and is only a short walk from Hervey Road Sports Field. Rio and Anton Ferdinand, it should be remembered, were both pupils at Bluecoats and played on this field. There is a crying need in this area- designated as an area of local park deficiency-for space for children to experience the joy of playing sport and applying their youthful energies in a positive and constructive way.

Two – Contravention of local, London and national policies

For instance, the proposal by Greenwich Council to build on this site,
would be contrary to PPG17 and Policies SO1, SO2 and O11 of the Greenwich UDP 2006.

Three – Destruction of sports fields in London

Just in the last 10 years, 202 playing fields have been lost in London. Surely this massacre must stop. NOW. Greenwich has a choice. Join the list of pariah Boroughs currently being put together by Sport England, or become a shining beacon for sport by building legacy using its leadership position as a host borough for the London Olympic Games.

Four – Health, Obesity and Crime

Obesity currently costs the NHS £9 billion every year. In 40 years time half the adult population of the UK could be obese. 30% of children are already obese or over weight. As for crime, it is well known that sport can be successfully used to engage young people and lead them away from criminal activity. The Council needs to do more to engage youngsters in sport and this is an excellent way to do it.

Five - Traffic and environmental impact


Building a school on this site would inevitably have a serious impact on already heavily used commuter routes. The daily movement of around 100 staff cars, plus pupil buses, can only increase traffic, noise and pollution in residential roads, which are already heavily congested during rush hour. Even a slight glitch in the Blackwall Tunnel turns all local roads into a log jam. There is no nearby train or tube station so staff would continue to travel by car. The proposed development on this green open space would therefore have a considerable daily negative environmental impact on the local area.

SUMMARY

Mr Mayor, we have already let down an entire generation of secondary school pupils by letting this sports field fall into disrepair. This indifference has prevented the full and proper use of this wonderful field which once boasted 5 tennis courts, a cricket pitch, numerous football pitches, 3 practice cricket nets, a fine bowling green and clubhouse, a caretaker’s house and pavilion. But, we can make amends.

We ask you to:

* remove the planning blight associated with Willow Dene,
* agree a partnership arrangement with local clubs and schools,
* rebuild the facilities with grants from Sport England and other funding organisations and
* put the ground in trust for the future generations of school children and young adults.

It is inspiring to imagine a summer evening with a game of cricket between local schools or clubs or a winter afternoon with soccer and rugby games in full swing. All with spectators and families in support with encouragement and enjoyment all round. Councillors, this picture can either be shattered by your planning committee or brought into reality, you and we are all involved.

We understand the needs of Willow Dene for new facilities but surely it must be possible to find a satisfactory outcome for the school on a better site, or even rebuilt on its existing site. Retaining and improving Hervey Road Sports Field is a golden opportunity to create a lasting legacy as an Olympic Borough, and become a shining beacon for sport in London.

Greenwich, you have been at the cutting edge of key initiatives in London, please, please do not continue with this damaging & outdated policy of building on sports fields and green space.

Councillors, we are determined - and we look for your support in this too - to make Hervey Road Sports Field a centre for sporting excellence, fun and enjoyment for school children, for the community, for ever.


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