A CHARITY has pledged to provide a “trophy venue” for young athletes after councillors agreed the £750,000 sale of a neglected 16-acre municipal playing field last week.
Chase Lodge sports ground, in Mill Hill, will be sold to the Camden Community Football and Sports Association (CCFSA), which plans to start work on new pitches and facilities early next year.
“We want to make this a really fantastic venue for Camden kids and adults to play football and other sports,” said Diane Culligan, who set up CCFSA because she had grown frustrated at the absence of full-sized pitches in Camden for the 600 youth players at Hampstead FC.
She added: “There will be a small facility up to FA standard for Kentish Town FC, and we hope a clubhouse and gym, a running track, and all the facilities for kids coming up there to train or play football matches. It is the sort of grassroots development that helps England at some point to win the World Cup.”
CCFSA’s bid is backed by the Marathon Trust charity, which will guarantee that the fields remain playing fields for at least 99 years.
The CCFSA was set up by youth club Hampstead FC and semi-pro Kentish Town FC but still needs funds to realise its ambitions for Chase Lodge. “We need volunteers, money, and ideally some companies with serious corporate responsibility intentions,” said Ms Culligan.
Chase Lodge was passed to Camden Council as a school playing field after the break-up of the Inner London Education Authority. Hampstead School once played at Chase Lodge but, according to the council report into the sale, “have not done so in recent years”.
Council documents show that three unnamed bidders made higher financial offers but were rejected. Council officers said they evaluated bids on the degree to which they boosted sports for Camden residents, and their feasibility, as well as price. Planning restrictions for green-belt land and sports pitches made it unlikely that the land could be developed.
Finance chief Cllr Ralph Scott said: “Sometimes best value means taking account of other things. We had a piece of land that was used for sports in the past, and we’ve been able to find a way of bringing it back into use for Camden’s young people.”
Money from the sale has been earmarked for a new play centre in Fortune Green, following the forced relocation of Sington Nursery from Mill Lane, West Hampstead.