Wandsworth Council have been accused of failing residents and commercialising public space over plans to upgrade the outdated sports pitch on Tooting Bec Common.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.
“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.
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.