DOES Brent Council stand for the privatisation of community space?

In response to letters from Brent Council's director of children and family services - John Christie (August 7), and Councillor Sami Hashmi (August 14), I wish to correct both men's assertions that the protesters who occupied the sports ground did so against the wishes of the community.

On the contrary, as I understand it, protesters from GRASS (Grass Roots Alliance for Social Sports) who camped on part of the sports ground for over a week to draw attention to the threat to the local community's continued access to this recreational facility received virtually unanimous support from local residents who dropped by and parents of children who were using the football pitches there until recently.

ARK - the charity which will run the proposed new school academy - has so far not made any written guarantee to retain the local youth community's affordable access to the football pitches on the site.

Over the last 12 months, as many as 150 young people were using Wembley Sports Ground each week, many from Chalk Hill estate; the nearest alternative for them is too far away for them to travel back from in the evening. Currently, local kids pay just £1 per session to use the football training ground. If multi-millionaire-owned ARK's school academy does get the go-ahead on this site, we don't want a repeat of the situation at the Capital City Academy, where Splash Football Training Academy was charged £3,600 every 10 weeks by that school - costs which were partly passed onto children.

When Brent Council granted planning permission for temporary classrooms for an initial 60 school pupils as a forerunner for the new academy on the site (likely predetermining any planning application for the proposed 1,600 pupil school), though they consulted Sports England, they failed to consult the users of the playing fields and the wider community. A proper consultation regarding council plans to build on these playing fields should necessarily have included all residents within the catchment area, including those who are guardians of children who will reasonably be expected to use the playing fields in future years.

There is nothing stopping them doing so now.

I call on ARK to draw up a Community Use Agreement with the local community in advance of the submitting of the planning application for the new academy on the site.


Buddings Circle Wembley