It’s crunch time for Green Dale Fields. Property developers want permission to build a new football stadium on the playing fields, in order to build 219 flats for sale on the site of the current stadium, writes Eleanor Margolies…
Four council estates surround Green Dale – Champion Hill, Cleve Hall, Denmark Hill and East Dulwich Estate. By my estimate, about one thousand children live in these flats, with no gardens and ‘No Ball Games’ signs on the walls.
Green Dale is a five-minute walk away. Since Southwark created a new path, and even more so through the lockdown, the three astroturf pitches have been busy with overlapping informal activities: football, cricket, volleyball, children learning to scoot and cycle. Parents sit on the surrounding grassy banks, keeping an eye on things.
Article 7 of the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child enshrines ‘the right to recreational activities’. With Southwark having some of the highest levels of obesity in the country and many overcrowded homes, open spaces like this are essential for physical and mental health.
Instead of the astroturf, the developers are proposing a caged ‘kickabout’ court just one twentieth the size. It would inevitably have less flexibility and social value – no room for onlookers or for toddlers mixing with the big kids. Instead of being in a secluded field, it would be close to the new flats (council planners have queried the impact on future residents) and a supermarket delivery area.
In response to public concerns about children being exposed to air pollution from HGVs, the council officers write in their report that ‘it is common within inner London for play areas and parks to be next to or close to heavily trafficked roads which would have more exposure to air pollutants’.
I find this comment staggering. Air pollution is a deadly time-bomb for the health of children. To approve this proposal would mean choosing to expose children to higher levels of pollution than now, and choosing to take away space for informal play from a thousand children who – during lockdown and during school holidays – simply have nowhere else they are allowed to kick a ball.
Southwark Council’s Planning Committee will consider the application on Monday 27 July. Details under reference 19/AP/1867.