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Barnard Park and Sobell Centre campaigners join forces

Footballers protest loss of sporting facilities outside the Town Hall

10 July, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Footballers and supporters protest on the steps of the Town Hall 

FOOTBALLERS who play at Barnard Park and the Sobell Leisure Centre joined forces on the steps of the Town Hall to protest about the loss of sporting facilities.

A group of almost 30 campaigners, who includ- ed the BBC’s home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford and Green Party councillor Caroline Russell, chanted: “Save Sobell, save Barnard Park” prior to a full council meeting last Thursday.

Youngsters have been fighting Town Hall plans to reduce the size of Barnard Park football pitch for months, while redevelopment at the councilowned Sobell Leisure Centre in Hornsey Road has been met with resistance from five-a-side footballers who have been turfed out to make way for a trampoline park.

Cllr Russell said she joined the campaigners because she was worried about the loss of sporting facilities in the borough. “Barnard Park football pitch is a precious asset and it’s a travesty to be getting rid of it,” she said. “The Sobell Centre is a part of the Olympic legacy and they’re about to trash it by putting in a trampoline park, which is a money-making thing.”

A scheme to replace the borough’s only 11-a-side pitch with a seven-a-side artificial pitch in Barnard Park were approved by planners in May. The council has said that in a borough with limited green space it needs to consider all park users, not just footballers.

But the plans have been put on hold after Sport England, the government body tasked with promoting sports activity, object- ed to the plans. The government will now take the final decision.

Campaigners questioned Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington’s executive member for health and social care, during the meeting. Former five-a- side player at the Sobell Centre, John Barber, asked Cllr Burgess why the trampoline park was only mentioned in one short paragraph of a 133- page budget report passed by the council in February.

Cllr Burgess said: “Anything within it [the report] was not hidden, nothing would stand out particularly, so there is nothing sinister about this proposal being halfway through it.”

She said the council needed the extra revenue from the trampoline park because of reduced funds from central government.

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