Football Hub Will 'Change Nature' Of Gunnersbury Park

Council say Parklife pitches will be part of London's largest outdoor sporting facility

(R-L) Cllr Bassam Mahfouz, Cllr Julian Bell, Cllr Steve Curran and Martin Reilly, Kier Construction

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The official ground breaking ceremony for the new Parklife Football Hub was this Friday (10 August) in Gunnersbury Park with Councillor Julian Bell, Leader of Ealing Council and Councillor Steve Curran, Leader of Hounslow Council doing the honours. The new multi-million pound facility will see the installation of two brand new third generation (3G) artificial grass pitches (AGP), grass football pitches, an eight-team changing pavilion, sports hall (suitable for Futsal), gym and all necessary ancillary facilities.

Ealing Council say it will be part of the largest outdoor sporting facility in London. The project has been made possible by a £4 million grant from the Parklife Football Hubs Programme. It is a partnership between Hounslow and Ealing Councils, local football leagues, the Premier League, The FA, the Government, the Football Foundation and Sport England.

However, concerns have been raised by some local residents that the scale of the new sports facilities will change the nature of the park and make it less attractive to long term users.

One regular visitor to the park contacted us to say, “I love sport and love to see people playing it but I think the Council are being complacent about the scale of the changes that Parklife will bring. These football hubs. where they have been set up in other parts of the country. are hugely popular and will attract thousands of visitors. Obviously they will need much more extensive parking facilities and to start charging but the challenges in terms of traffic management will be significant and the park’s nature will be fundamentally changed. Substantial amounts of public money are being given out to develop this facilities so it is understandably attractive to the Council but I’m not convinced they have fully taken into account the interests of residents.”

The Council say they are still considering their options regarding parking charges at Gunnersbury Park. Parking in the existing car park is currently free.

A number of other local people have expressed anxiety about the growing commercialisation of the park saying that it has already had a negative impact. The recent summer pop festivals were unpopular with some of the people who live close to the park and there has been a mixed reaction to the proposal for Go Ape to take over part of the park to install a zip wire based adventure play facility. The Secret Cinema event has seen a substantial part of the park taken over although there have been comparatively few complaints about disruption.

The Parklife Hub is part of the multi-million pound Gunnersbury Regeneration Project and is due open to the public in summer 2019. When complete, the hub will also have a multi-use sports centre and gym, tennis courts and cricket pitches, alongside first-class football facilities. The project has also seen major work undertaken on the park’s historic buildings and grounds.

A spokesperson for Ealing Council said, "we are anticipating a really big rise in local participation – no different from similar parklife facilities. The multi-use sports hub that is due to open next summer will be one of the largest in the capital so provision for sports for local people will be boosted hugely."

They added that any projections on visitor numbers would be done by the FA rather than the Council.

Councillor Bell said, “Thanks to this latest development, state-of-the-art new football facilities are coming to Gunnersbury Park and will provide opportunities for local people of all ages and backgrounds to play football and stay active and healthy.“

Councillor Curran, Leader of Hounslow Council said: “We are delighted to see work starting on this Parklife Football Hub. Once completed this facility will offer our residents and visitors the opportunity to participate in football at the very highest level through grassroots investment, and will inspire generations of athletes to come.”

September 3, 2018

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