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Will Town Hall pull Barnard Park plans?

Town Hall considering options over Barnsbury park plans after public inquiry announced

15 September, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

TOWN Hall chiefs are considering pulling their own planning application for the controversial Barnard Park revamp after the government announced a public inquiry into the plans.

The latest twist in the long-running row over plans to reduce the Barns- bury park’s existing 11-a- side football pitch and introduce a new village green saw communities secretary Sajid Javid step in three weeks ago after sports bodies lobbied the government over the reduction in sport facilities.

Islington Council now faces a choice between taking on Sport England, the Football Association and other bodies in the inquiry – which will make a recommendation to Mr Javid, who will have the ultimate say – drop the plans altogether, or con- sult on fresh plans for a 9- a-side pitch, which is seen as a compromise between competing community interests.

“We are considering our options,” Town Hall leader Richard Watts said. “There’s all sort of leisure activity going on [on the existing pitch] as it’s the only flat bit of the park.

“So if you just replace it with an 11-a-side 3G pitch you can only play organ- ised football and rugby, so you kill the park as a recreational area. It’s about how you get the right balance between the different interests.”

The proposals for Barnard Park, approved by planning chiefs in May, would see the current 11- a-side pitch, which is in a poor state, replaced by a floodlit 7-a-side artificial pitch, allowing for new paths, grassy areas, picnic tables and a barbecue area. The council has secured £850,000 for the changes.

The Friends of Barnard Park have backed the plans but the Copenhagen Youth Project, the Foot- ball Association (FA), Sport England, and Arse- nal in the Community

oppose them because it entails the loss of the park’s full-size football pitch.

Islington does not want to ditch the plans altogeth- er as it believes the park is in sore need of investment, but neither does it want a new 11-a-side pitch.

This leaves open the possibility that Town Hall chiefs may withdraw the application – and render the public inquiry point- less – and come back with an offer of a 9-a-side pitch.

But this option was blasted by opposition Green Cllr Caroline Rus- sell, who said this would be rejected by the sports bodies.

“The point is that they [the council] have been ignoring the planning framework for sport and I’m really glad Sajid Javid has called it in. Grassroots football needs to be properly supported and they need to replace the 11-a- side pitch, especially since there is an agreed deficiency of artificial pitch facilities in Islington.”

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