Published: 7th July, 2011
by TOM FOOT
SPORTS pitches used free of charge by children in one of the most deprived parts of Camden are being “privatised by stealth”, according to campaigners.
The Queen’s Crescent Community Association, who have agreed to take control of the Malden Road floodlit football pitches and basketball courts from Camden Council, have come under fire for proposing a pay-to-play system and considering controlling use of the facilities for up to half of the week.
They claim the move will help raise funds to manage the pitches and provide some free organised sport for young people.
But Petra Dando, chairwoman of Camden Association of Street Properties (CASP), said: “The community campaigned hard many years ago to bring the pitches back into use for local youngsters.
“It has never been the intention of the community to charge children and young people for the use of either of the two pitches on site.”
Under the plans, the pitches, a popular hangout for teenagers in Gospel Oak and Queen’s Crescent, will be locked after around 9pm. Police and youth offending groups say they “firmly supported” the plans claiming it will reduce anti-social behaviour.
Queen’s Crescent Community Association director Foyezur Miah said they wanted to take over use of the pitch for 50 per cent of the time.
“That’s around 36 hours. The pitches will be open to anyone after school for a few hours – we will make sure of that. The idea that we are shutting the pitches to children is completely wrong.
“The whole idea is to get young people involved in properly organised sport.
“We will have slots and different kinds of sport available.
“The pitches are a great asset and we want to harness that.
“They should be open to the whole community and at the moment some children feel too scared to go there.”
He said it was important to bring investment into Queen’s Crescent and criticised a decision by campaigners to write to the Wates Foundation asking for its grant funding for the new regime to be withdrawn.
Those opposed to the fees say the proposals will lead to a backlash from local youths. Teenagers in Queen’s Crescent told the New Journal that young children used the pitches after school but there was an unwritten agreement that the early evening was reserved for older children. Teenagers, parents and teachers joined a protest outside the Malden Road pitches on Tuesday.
Terence Wiggett, chairman of the Gospel Oak District Management Committee, said: “Councillors have been irresponsible by their own failure to consult with the electorate. This is an ever growing example of today’s councillors undermining a fair and democratic process.”