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Cricket plan for park: ‘They should have asked us – howzat?’

Objectors rail against council’s plan for cricket revamp of park

18 June, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

An illustration of how Wray Crescent Park could look after council plans for an expensive revamp which has sparked a backlash from some residents in the area

ANGRY objectors to a new pavilion planned for a green space in Upper Holloway say they want their park to be used for more than just cricket.

Islington Council have unveiled plans for a £500,000 revamp of Wray Crescent but residents say they are stumped by the consultation survey.

The Town Hall wants to help encourage a new generation of cricketers with the facilities, but critics say the choice of sport does not match what most in the area want from the land.

Jonathan Evans, chairman of the Friends of Wray Crescent group, said: “We think it is a landgrab and it is unfair. Their plans fail to protect the needs of the local community.

“It fails to solve one of Islington’s biggest problems: it is a highly ­populated area and we need this space for our mental health and we need this space for other things – going for a run, playing football, having lunch with kids. It is so upsetting.”

How Wray Crescent Park currently looks

The group are asking for the plans to be paused and are calling for a wider consultation over what people in the area think the park can be used for. They met with the council in 2018 and made the case for having a multifunctional space in Wray Crescent.

The new plans offer a room as part of a cricket pavilion building to be used as a “multi-purpose community space”.

Sacha Austin, secretary of the Friends of Wray Crescent, said: “It’s really unbalanced and we are not happy with Islington’s response to the way they have done the consultation, which is suddenly, out of the blue, they dropped these proposal pamphlets through our doors.”

She added: “They’ve done no consultation with us about what kind of activities we want to have in this park.”

The changes to the park will be half funded by the council with other donations from Sport England and the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Ms Austin added: “It just doesn’t represent what the community needs. We have never had an assessment of what the community need around here, and I strongly feel they should have started with that.

“Overall, they really need to look at the use of the park that is going to fulfil the needs of everyone, not just one group.”

A sore point in the row is how much the views of people who come from outside the area to play cricket on the pitch should be weighed against those of people who live close by.

Other ideas for the park suggested in recent weeks have included a paddling pool, a fountain, updated play equipment and a new cafe.

The current cricket facility is promoted by leisure operators, GLL, as Islington’s only pitch with nets, an artifical wicket and practice nets – and is used through the summer months.

A previous row over the look of the park centred on whether fences were needed to stop “sixes” from big-hitting batsmen and women flying into neighbouring houses and gardens.

An Islington Council spokesperson said: “We are determined to create a greener, healthier Islington that is fairer for everyone, which is why we are committing £6.9million to improve our parks and green spaces over the next two years.

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have only emphasised the importance of parks and green spaces as a resource for local people to enjoy for relaxation, leisure and sport.”

The spokesperson added: “As a small, inner-city borough, there is not a great deal of available green space. We are therefore working to ensure that all available green spaces work as well as possible for local people, and have launched a consultation on our exciting plans for the Wray Crescent community and cricket building.

“We know how important a space Wray Crescent is for local cricketers, and believe our plans will help make the area a destination for young people to play cricket locally, whilst also ensuring it can be used as a community space for everyone to enjoy.”

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