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Plastic grass for the playing fields is not good news

13 March, 2020

• I AM writing to express my concern in relation to the handling of the proposed installation of plastic grass at Tufnell Park Playing Fields.

There has been a lack of transparency in communication and process. Residents were only alerted to the proposal by word of mouth, with no consultation by the council.

Emails between residents and Janet Burgess, Labour councillor, provided one set of information. But the content in a meeting of the Friends of Tufnell Park, at which the councillor was present, was very different.

There has been little information provided to residents, and the project is being led by footballers, with many conversations and commitments being made behind closed doors. There is also a very concerning lack of transparency on cost.

Just five years ago, a drainage system was installed on the Tufnell Park Playing Fields, for the benefit of footballers, at a cost of £150,000 – and that system has already failed.

Why has proper investigation and resolution of the drainage system not been undertaken by the council?

The cost of the plastic grass will be £300,000 to install and we understand will involve ripping up the existing grass field, replacing the drainage and reseeding the park, putting the fields out of use for months, as well as annual maintenance costs for specialist contractors to attend, for a lifespan of just eight to 10 years.

In addition, there will be costs of thousands of pounds on a turf specialist, feasibility study and environmental report before the plastic grass is even installed.

Is this really the best use of money in our borough, for a project that benefits only a small percentage of the population?

At the meeting this week there was no commitment to a formal consultation process: we were told that there will be “discussions” but we have no visibility over when, and with whom. How will the benefits and costs of this project be assessed, in an impartial way?

I urge Cllr Burgess to commit to local residents that this project will not progress, and money will not be spent on it, until a formal proposal has been presented to all interested parties, and proper consultation has taken place.

I also urge her to commit to the community that this project will not take place unless the environmental cost is zero, or positive – and a non-plastic surface can be found.

Although the installation of plastic grass in the Tufnell Park Playing Fields may be good news for footballers, it comes at a large financial cost, and the degradation of the Tufnell Park Playing Fields for the rest of the community.

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