Final ‘save our Barnard Park pitch’ plea from Cally youngsters
Youngsters fight Town Hall plans to reduce size of Barnard Park football pitch
17 March, 2017 — By Joe Cooper
Youth worker Stephen Griffith, Ahmed Faid and Jesse Ndjeka are campaigning to save the pitch
A LAST-ditch attempt to persuade the Town Hall to keep a full-sized football pitch in Barnard Park is being made by young people around the Cally.
The controversial bid to reduce the size of the 11-a-side pitch by 70 per cent as part of a redesign of the park has split opinion in the area. Last summer, councillors deferred making a decision over fears that too much space was being taken away from sporting use in Islington Council’s plan.
That the park needs an upgrade, and the poor surface on the pitch particularly, is not in dispute. The council says a full consultation has already taken place and the Tribune understands a compromise, in the form of a 9-a-side pitch, could be put before councillors in the next few months.
But young people at the Copenhagen Youth Project, just around the corner, have recently received funding to hold three public meetings around the Barnsbury and Bemerton estates to raise awareness of the pitch reduction.
Ahmed Faid, who is currently making a film about the issue, said many of his peers were not aware of the plan, and so had not objected.
“For me, it’s crazy to reduce the size of the pitch,” said Mr Faid, an economics student. “Anyone who wants to use it can use it for free. There are 100 kids out there training some days, and that’s in winter.”
Concerns have been raised that the council plan, backed by the Friends of Barnard Park, will create a “village green”-style park for residents who live immediately around it. Some have said football causes a disturbance due to the floodlights, noise, and balls kicked into gardens.
An illustration of how the revamped Barnard Park could look
“When these people bought their houses, they knew there was a sports pitch there,” Mr Faid said.
His comments have been backed by Daniel Sandford, whose son plays for Highbury Wolves on the pitch every Sunday.
Mr Sandford said: “I feel that what has happened is that the Friends of Barnsbury Park, who initially had good motives for wanting to upgrade the park, have lost sight of the fact this is also an important sporting facility.”
The area was bombed in the Second World War and the park was created to promote sport for young people in the area by a “Councillor Barnard”.
“It would be such a shame to lose that foresight in order to reduce noise and annoyance for a few wealthy residents who get footballs at the bottom of their gardens,” added Mr Sandford, a BBC journalist.
Fred Reynolds, who lives nearby, said a 9-a-side pitch was not a compromise. He added: “This is a reduction in the amount of space available for sport, and to say anything else in mealy-mouthed. This pitch was built for the kids of south Islington and the Barnsbury estate. We have an obesity crisis – a full-sized facility is exactly the kind of thing we need.”
Barnsbury councillor Rowena Champion said the issue was contentious due to the limited amount of green space in Islington and the various needs of park users.
Asked for her own view, she said: “I think the plan will be a significant improvement. It wouldn’t really be a compromise if we didn’t reduce the size of the pitch, would it?”
Sport England have also objected to reducing the size of the pitch as they say Islington has a deficit of full-sized facilities.
“Sport England and its partners are willing to continue dialogue with Islington Council to hopefully find an appropriate solution to this matter,” a spokeswoman said.