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Opinion: It’s just not cricket! LibDem Councillor Athena Zissimos challenges Ealing Council over sport plans for Warren Farm when other local facilities exist

Councillor Athena Zissimos, Ealing Liberal Democrats spokesperson for the Environment writes of her concerns over Labour-run Ealing Council’s plans for Warren Farm and challenges the council over the difficulties getting to Warren Farm will have on people in Southall.

“I grew up in inner city Sydney far away from the golden sands of Bondi. We lived in terraced housing with a postage stamp sized cement back garden.

“We played cricket in the back lane with the neighbourhood kids, both girls and boys. We used rubbish bins for wickets and tennis balls instead of cricket ballsyou were foolish to park your car in the back lane! Not a million miles away the children of Southall are playing cricket on any available surface they can find in their immediate neighbourhood in Southall. I get it.

“It is magical thinking if to think these same children will be transported to Warren Farm. It will not be these underprivileged children of Southall that will be playing cricket at Warren Farm. Let us get real. 

“The Southall kids play cricket in their immediate neighbourhoods, they will play cricket somewhere near their homes which they can walk to, not Warren Farm, which is removed at a minimum 20 minute bus ride away, followed by a 15 minute walk to new pitch locations. Spikes Bridge Park where the London Tigers play and is in Southall is already providing local facilities, and it is possible to hire cricket pitches locally. Football facilities are also provided at Spikes Bridge Park. 

“Taking full advantage of sites like Durdans Park Cricket Ground granted £643,000 in grants with the help of the Council which have been leased out by the Council to its preferred partner, which at present seems to be underutilised will be the best way to allow these children to play cricket on a proper cricket pitch in Southall.

“The Durdans Park Cricket Ground has been laid out to English and Wales Cricket Board standards and a 5-a-side football pitch has also been added on the site to provide football training facility for juniors. There is also a new pavilion built in 2016 with that funding with changing facilities, toilets, kitchen and a hall which can be used for social events and well-being classes.

“More needs to be made of these facilities already in Southall.

Underprivileged children have time-poor parents, often dependent on variable public transport with its vagaries of timing and traffic. The practical challenges of getting their children to Warren Farm to play organised sport on a schedule is likely to prove too complex.  

“In the past the Warren Farm site may have been used for sports, but those that used the facilities for the most part drove there, which is far from ideal in the current environment. Transport for London (TfL) are keen to cut costs and reduce bus services as a consequence, even with the impending ULEZ implementation in outer London boroughs, this has not reversed the cuts.  It is magical thinking if this Labour Council thinks it will be able to convince TfL to improve the bus links to Warren Farm. 

So, will the underprivileged children of Southall really be the beneficiaries of the cricket pitches on Warren Farm as Ealing’s Labour Council keep telling us? It seems unlikely.

The Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2023 -2028 with a foreword by Councillor Peter Mason Labour Leader of the Council and Labour Councillor Josh Blacker Cabinet Member for Healthy Lives stresses the importance of green spaces states:

“Some building blocks can impact directly and indirectly in different ways, for example there is a wealth of evidence for the significant impact on our mental and physical health and wellbeing of being better connected to nature and natural green spaces of high biodiversity. Not only is it good for us to use green space to be physical active, there are huge indirect benefits to our mental health and wellbeing from being amongst nature.”

“Warren Farm fits easily into this strategy already, why destroy it, so that it fits into another strategy, and unlike cricket pitches despite what the Council says natural green spaces of high biodiversity cannot be built just like that, mother nature comes into play, and in the case of skylarks those open wide spaces will no longer be there, nor for that matter will they be there for Ealing’s residents.

“One more thing, the Health and Wellbeing Strategy is all about listening to the community. Perhaps the Council should do this.

“The Ealing Liberal Democrats strongly support the local community who have amassed a huge 22,500 signature petition to keep Warren Farm as is and have all of it become a Nature Reserve. If this can be raised to 25,000 then this will trigger a public debate on the issue in the Town Hall.

“Please do sign the petition if you have not done so already:

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