A council deal worth £275,000 to hire out Hurlingham Park in Fulham for an international polo extravaganza has sparked controversy.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council will earn £25,000 in rental fees after giving World Polo Ltd the go-ahead to stage a polo competition in the park between June 4 and 6 in 2009. The rest of the money will be spent on renovating the Broomhouse Lane park and playing surface before and after the event.
Former Sands End Councillor Brendan Bird, 58, has lived in nearby Sulivan Road for 30 years. He said: "The council has shown gross cynicsm. It spends none of its energy promoting sports that people here actually play, and rents out municipal land for a toff's sport."
But Cllr Paul Bristow said the improvements to the surface would also benefit football and rugby players who use the same turf outside the polo season, adding: "I'm not interested in class warfare."
The council says it consulted with Hurlingham District Residents' Association and Hammersmith and Fulham Rugby Club before concluding the deal. It will hold two public consultations on November 20 and 26 from 6pm to 7.30pm at the Hurlingham Park Pavilion.
But former Conservative councillor Amanda Lloyd-Harris, 51, of Langthorne Street, said: " To have a consultation after the event is getting things the wrong way round. This is a fait accompli. There are huge mounds of earth, and works taking over half the park. Instead of all this, people might like more facilities for sports they actually play."
Daniel Fox-Davies, founder of World Polo Ltd, said: "People have this idea of the royals and the gentry which they associate with polo, but it is an increasingly accessible sport. We will be hosting a community day on the Sunday after the event so people can see the horses. We have given 100 free tickets for the council to distribute, and there will be another 250 at a discounted rate."
The first British game of polo was played next to the park in 1874 at the Hurlingham Club, Ranelagh Gardens.
IS THIS A GOOD DEAL FOR TAXPAYERS BY H&F COUNCIL OR ARE THEY PANDERING TO THE WEALTHY? LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK IN THE BOX BELOW