RESIDENTS have urged the council to rethink leasing part of a public park to a private firm that could charge up to £90 per hour to play football.
PlayFootball has been given permission to renovate the run-down football pitches in Hammersmith Park, White City in a £2.2million privately-funded project.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council will rent the 1.3 hectare site, in South Africa Road, on a 35-year long lease, and when it opens next spring the currently free facilities will be available at expensive hourly rates.
The decision has angered residents who would like to see the public park in the hands of the community or a charitable trust. But deputy council leader Greg Smith said it was a good deal for local people at no cost to the taxpayer, and insisted that two pitches would be permanently free for certain community groups.
PlayFootball will replace the existing dilapidated all-weather pitch with two seven-a-side and 11 five-a-side football pitches, upgraded basketball court and a brand new club house.
Labour councillors have criticised the council for allowing the bowling green and tennis courts to be removed completely.
Harry Audley, chairman of White City Residents Association, said it was worrying that a local authority could essentially sell off public land to a private firm.
"This council has set a precedent of leasing public parks on long lease. It is charging rents of £70,000 a year which is a pittance for a third of a public park in a prime location which in the next 10 to 15 years will see significant development and improvement.
“In a perfect world, we would like to see local people given the opportunity to decide what resolution they wanted to improve the facilities of a park - whether raising funds to resurface the pitch, finding a charitable trust to improve and run it or enter into a private deal like this.”
Deputy council leader Greg Smith said: "Residents have been asking us to upgrade the all-weather pitch for several years and we are sure that they will be delighted with the new complex once it is completed.
"We think this is a great deal for the community, local school children and the local economy. Not only will these new and much-needed sports facilities be built at no cost to the taxpayer, but they will also breath new life into the park and the area."