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GRASS Call Out: Occupy and Save Wembley Park Sports Ground From Privateers

GRASS | 31.07.2008 15:08 | Education | Free Spaces | Social Struggles | London

The press release from Grass Roots Alliance for Social Sports (GRASS) who have currently occupied the Wembley Park Sports Ground on Bridge Road and Forty Avenue in North London in protest of private Academy school investor Ark gaining control of the sports fields, taking away valuable green space and amenities from the coummunity.

We are a group of concerned citizens who have taken direct action on behalf of the Wembley community to ensure that this site is available to those who can not afford to pay for alternative facilities.

All dialogue between the community and Brent council have been proven to be one sided and the voice of locals ignored relentlessly. We are not here to demand solutions but so that more time is provided for a proper public consultation which HAS NOT be provided yet because of the nature of development through privatisation.

The issue is complicated and Brent Council are relying on you to not fully understand what is happening and so delay your opposition. As well they wish to cloak their business relationship with corporations, whom on invitation by Brent council are taking an interest in your local faculties.

In response to this injustice G.R.A.S.S. an experienced group of local and regional activists interested in community welfare, have taken up camp on the outskirts of the site so enabling the continual use by locals but disabling the start of construction work by Brent council.

Unfortunately we were made aware of this at a critical stage in the development of the project and so were unable to consult the wider community before acting. However we have started a campaign to create a dialogue with the community to ask what they would like to see happen with the site. This has so far, it must be noted, been met with positive feedback by those who have visited us.

A petition has been set up and the names are ever growing. As well we have reived verbally, many accounts by locals about their experience of using the sports field and their appreciation of such a site being available to local schools and community groups.

Brent Council are selling these playing fields to a group of Financiers who have plans to build a 1600 pupil School Academy on part of this site. This project is a contentious issue and when investigated proves to be very controversial.

A previous campaign has highlighted this issue about New Labours current plan for the new Academy schools and most information can be found here

The space which stands in the shadow of Wembley Arena is an inspiration to local children as they train and play. Wembley stadium is the home to some of their most beloved teams games and so serves as an inspiration and catalyst to their goals and dreams.

The Problem is that these football pitches which have been used by the local community for over 100 years will be at risk from overuse as a result of both the new schools access and the current use by locals. In response "ARK" has announced it will build an Astro Turf pitch on part of the site. However Astro Turf is unsuitable for kids league games and so it uses will diminish, as will the local community's access to suitable space.

Furthermore, the council have so far given no written assurance the local Community's affordable access to this recreation ground will be even guaranteed if the School Academy does get full planning permission.

We ask, do ARK the developer value this site more as a capital asset than a community resource?

Currently, local kids pay just £1 an hour, so a game of football lasting 90 minutes would cost around £1.50. the alternative is another private sports facility which costs £80 an hour, meaning a full match would reach upwards of £120 this is a 800 percent mark up!!!!!!!!!!!

Our aim is to protect this Field and many like it which provides



The recreation ground is also the work place of Peter Moring a local resident who has been coaching and supervising the children’s activities for the last 10 years. He is considered an important and valued member of the community by locals and all who come to this site to use the facilities. We also ask "ARK" to honour their contract with him, that being that he can still carry on his duties for the next 2 years, but so far there is no written assurances to the fact. He has also overseen the positive results of social activities which have helped with troubled local children who without these facilities would otherwise have little option to socialise in a suitable environment.

What must be remembered is that most children if not given the choice are content to stay at home and play video games or even exercise on there Nintendo wiis which can be a very solitary experience. The alternative, being local facilities provide social interaction essential for the development of young adults.

Through team play and disciplined personal development this field helps build the foundations of important bonds and communication skills which are an important asset to local community life and essential for the future of those children whom playing on this site has had such a positive effect.

Sport is also known to increase Seretonin which is a chemical released through physical activity. Seretonin can help battle depression and other mental illnesses. Depression of course has been proven to have connections with Poverty, Crime and drug use, all of which thanks to mismanagement by Brent Council have been allowed to spread unchecked in the Wembley area. Of course this is not exclusive to the Brent council but is face an issue with most of the other boroughs across the capitol and Nationwide.

We understand that not all of those in need of guidance through their childhood years will ever consider this space as a solution. Without it though, the possibility of local solutions will be eradicated forever and we will be at the mercy of ever increasing draconian measures to tackle the results of mismanagement by our local councils.

If you feel strongly about this situation, or are a local parent or resident who's child or your own access to this site will be unable to be sustained we urge you to come and visit us and discuss how you can help, Brent council are furious with our actions as it has put a spanner in the works of their shady deals with corporate business who's only concern is profit margins.

We are attempting every possible action to sustain our occupation of the field including a barricade of the proposed location of a new site entrance enabling access for the building equipment. Once construction begins of the temporary classrooms it will herald the end of any possible democratic decision by the local community and forever destroy the possibilities of affordable community solutions forever.

Your presence is required now, as otherwise the council will be under the impression that the locals are happy with the current plan. However both Brent council and ourselves know this not to be the case, but instead they hope that support will diminish as locals loose hope of justice being served.

We ask sincerely that you stand up and come and air your voice by legally supporting us on site. We have full local media coverage so your actions and opinions will be aired to a larger audience.

A sustained campaign must be enforced by constant support, of which would be successful only if the site is held until September the 1st 2008, which is the beginning of the new term.

If this is achieved we will have beaten big business and stopped the disease of unchecked privatisation of our services.

G.R.A.S.S. Working with, and for the Local Community

Also see link below for latest information.