Wandsworth Council accused of ‘failing residents’ over plans to upgrade Tooting Common Triangle

Wandsworth Council have been accused of failing residents and commercialising public space over plans to upgrade the outdated sports pitch on Tooting Bec Common.

The decision to seek planning permission for the refurbishment of facilities at Tooting Triangle has caused anger among residents who claim the development will radically alter the Common.

A spokesperson for the residents’ group protesting against the development said: “At a time when outdoor space is so precious, we should not be losing 38,000 square feet from public use. The council want to bring in commercial operators to Tooting Bec Common and make the public pay to use a significant area of the common.

“They are failing to mention the impact on one of the remaining unspoilt islands of parkland in London. They are also failing residents by refusing to investigate the obvious impact on car parking and refusing to listen to 10,000 objections to this development, sending out just 34 letters to residents.”

The triangle’s current all-weather floodlit pitch, which covers an area of some 3,800 square metres, was first built in the 1960s.

Wandsworth Council plan to ‘revamp and modernise’ the existing buildings to offer new changing rooms, showers, a mini café, public toilets and a children’s recreation and play area, including an extended outdoor area.

Jeremy Clyne, Open Spaces Society Correspondent for Lambeth and Wandsworth, said: “In its 833-word public statement Wandsworth Council has miraculously managed not to even mention that the public will have to pay to use this area of the common which should remain free and open to all.

“It seems the Council is anxious not to draw attention to this, apparently thinking that the public are easily taken in. This part of the common would be given over for the exclusive use of those who are prepared to pay. The Council also hides the fact that these changes will not just radically alter this corner of the Common but also affect the character and enjoyment of the wider Triangle field that is a tranquil and precious area of the common.

“I don’t think that councillors backing this proposal have the slightest appreciation of how the site is used and enjoyed by the public in both Wandsworth and Lambeth. When I visited again at the weekend it was busy with families enjoying the space, playing all sorts of games including tennis, running, and badminton, with lots of small children cycling.

Pictured: Residents play badminton at Tooting Triangle; Mohammad Hiaran and his family are anti the development and said he would write in to object.
Pictured: Residents play badminton at Tooting Triangle; Mohammad Hiaran and his family are anti the development and said he would write in to object.

“All in a completely informal and relaxed way, and all for free without having to pay for the pleasure. If the Council has its way this will be completely destroyed. Replacing it with pay for use enclosed football pitches is unacceptable on a common.”

The improvements were initially endorsed in November 2018, following public consultation, when a scrutiny committee for the council formally backed plans to replace the existing pitch and community facilities. The substantial funding and investment to deliver the improved facilities will come from an unnamed commercial partner in return for a 25-year lease on the site.

Cllr Steffi Sutters said: “We have drawn up plans to refurbish and improve the facilities at the Triangle which can be achieved without losing a single blade of grass on the common. This scheme covers only land that has already been built upon so there is no loss whatsoever of any of the common’s green space. There will be no impact at all on the natural open spaces of Tooting Common which local people rely on so heavily for their leisure, recreation and mental well-being.”

Objections to the planning permission of the development will close on December 14.

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One thought on “Wandsworth Council accused of ‘failing residents’ over plans to upgrade Tooting Common Triangle

  • Stephen Spark

    The Common’s dedication to the public for recreation is enshrined in the Metropolitan Commons Act, 1866, which states in Section 1:

    “From and after the completion of the said purchase by the board [the Metropolitan Board of Works], the commons or waste lands delineated in the said plan and therein edged with green (in this Scheme referred to as “the Common”) shall be and are hereby dedicated to the public as a common or recreation ground, and shall for the purposes of this Scheme be regulated and managed by the Board.”

    It is clear from the above that the Common is intended for public enjoyment not private profit. Furthermore, management was to be entrusted to the MBW and, by implication, Wandsworth Borough Council as its successor, not sub-contracted to private for-profit entities.

    Nor is it within the Council’s powers to fence off portions of the Common for any purpose except “for short periods” for the security, maintenance and recovery of the natural environment, as is made clear in Section 3 of The Metropolitan Commons Supplemental Act, 1873:

    “The Board may drain, plant, ornament, and improve the common as may, be necessary, and for the purpose of preserving the turf and grass may inclose by fences for short periods such portions as may require rest to revive the same, and for the further protection of the common may put up a post and chain defence against the straying of cattle along such portion of it as is marked by a dotted line in red on the said plan.”

    The same section continues:
    “No house or any other buildings shall be erected on the common, except such lodges or other buildings as may be necessary for the maintenance or management of the said common or recreation ground. The Board may from time to time erect on the common such lodges and other buildings as may be necessary for the maintenance or management of the said common or recreation ground.”

    The two Acts’ promoters left no room for ambiguity about their intentions for the use and management of Common: it was to be for public benefit; it was not to be built upon; and no part of it was to be permanently fenced off. Yet that is exactly what Wandsworth Borough Council proposes and what I strongly object to.

    It’s also disgraceful that residents were not properly cunsulted about the proposal. I live within 5 minutes’ walk of the Triangle and only learned of the plan through an XR email – the council always tries to keep its money-making schemes under the radar and to avoid public discussion of them.


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