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Tooting group appeals to council to open green space

Tooting group appeals to council to open green space

| by Tooting Newsie | Posted in News
The letter from Forever Fishponds to Wandsworth Council

Local group Forever Fishponds have written an open letter to Wandsworth Council to ask that Fishponds Playing Fields, a local green space located on Hebdon Road, be opened to the public during lockdown.

The full text of the letter, addressed to Leader of Wandsworth Council Ravi Govindia; Councillor and Cabinet Member for Community Services and Open Spaces Steffi Sutters; and Chief Executive Paul Martin reads (see below for the council response):

Dear Clr Govindia, Cllr Sutters and Mr Martin


Forever Fishponds is a group of Tooting residents, many of whom live close to Fishponds Fields in Hebdon Road, SW17.

In this time of lockdown, we ask the Council to open the Fields to the public to help fight the pandemic to the benefit of all.

The Case for Opening

The lockdown rules allow outdoor exercise once a day in your local area, but in the area of Tooting around the Fields, this is very difficult. The Fields are in a densely populated area noted by the Council for its 'open space deficit' and high levels of air pollution. It can take a good hour of walking in traffic simply to get to Tooting Common and back, which is already crowded. This is impossible for those with small children, the disabled, and the elderly. Fishponds is 5-10 minutes walk from over 2000 households, including many flats without gardens or private cars.

There is ample evidence of the health benefits of exercise for the immune system and mental health, as is closeness to green space.

When almost all social activity outside the household or support bubble is prohibited, it is vital to maximise these opportunities. Children home-schooling need breaks outdoors. Older and disabled people need a safe place to go near their homes.

Tooting is a diverse area. Research shows that BAME residents are less likely to have private garden or nearby open spaces and are four times more likely to be affected by the Covid19 virus.

Opening the Fields also contributes directly to the Council's Climate Action Plan.

The Fields Now

All use of the Fields for sport and by schools has stopped. They lie locked and unused 100% of the time. This is a colossal waste of their potential.

We appreciate that opening the Fields raises many issues, including practical ones. We recognise the burdens on Council staff, for whom responding to Covid19 is rightly the priority, and do not wish to add to these.

If the Council would find it difficult to undertake daily unlocking and locking of the Fields, Forever Fishponds is able to offer a sustainable rota of volunteers to do this. There is commitment to this from our many local supporters.

We look forward to discussing this offer with you. We feel we could make a comparable contribution to the volunteers who run School Streets and ease pressure on the Council’s own staff resources.

Beautiful green spaces are among Wandsworth's most prized assets, but Tooting's residents are denied effective access to these. It is only fair to open the Fields to reduce this disparity and improve Tooting's quality of life.

Yours sincerely

Lucy Neal, Kate Allan and the Forever Fishponds team

cc OSC members, Cllrs Field and McDermott and Paul Chadwick

A council spokesperson said:

“We are doing everything we can to encourage people to become more active for the health and wellbeing benefits this provides.  We fully recognise the importance of sports and physical activity to keeping people mentally and physically well and the role it plays in creating strong communities which is why we do so much to protect and safeguard all our valuable sport pitches across the borough.

“The playing fields at Fishponds Road are available to schools, sports clubs and local teams that need proper pitches to play a variety of team sports like football, cricket and rugby. They are a vital and scarce resource for local clubs and offer much needed space for organised sporting activities. Last year it was booked for more than 1,600 hours of sports use – which is equivalent to more than 1,000 football matches.

“We are looking at future management proposals that could give the local community a greater say  in how these sports fields are used, but we do need to strike a careful balance between protecting a scarce set of designated sports pitches with the wishes of those living in this part of Tooting who want to open it up for non-sporting and general amenity purposes.”

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