Stop The 'Giveaway' of Warren Farm
Open letter to Ealing Councillors from local opponent Nic Ferriday
You may have been following the current controversy concerning Ealing Council’s intention to lease the large area of playing fields off Windmill Lane, known as Warren Farm, to a professional football club, Queens Park Rangers (QPR) for a corporate headquarters and private training ground.
Ealing council is planning to sign the lease shortly. We explain below why this is a shocking deal and why we are asking you to intervene.
Warren Farm is protected Metropolitan Open Land (the city’s equivalent of Green Belt), designated as Community Open Space, and has been used by the people of Ealing as outdoor sports space for close to 90 years. It is also part of the Brent River Park (BRP), although the council has been quietly trying to take Warren Farm out of the BRP in the current Local Development Framework process. There is free public access to the land.
The sports pitches are well drained and in good condition. They are the best in Ealing and no fixtures have had to be cancelled due to waterlogging in the last ten years.
The changing rooms have become virtually derelict and there is no doubt that they need replacing. However, we believe it would be possible to raise the money to provide a 21st Century Sports Pavilion with state-of-the-art changing rooms from sports grants bodies such as Sport England and the Olympic Legacy Fund (and many others). Ealing Council has already done this for Pitshanger Park (Scotch Common) and Lord Halsbury Playing Fields in Northolt.
Despite this, Ealing Council is going ahead with leasing all 61 acres of Warren Farm to QPR for 200 years at a peppercorn rent. In effect, giving it away. Two thirds of the land will be for the private use of QPR. Only a third of the space would be left for community use and even for this, public access and use of it would be controlled by QPR.
Community sport facilities would be reduced. Football pitches will be reduced from 16 including adult size to 11 half and three quarter size pitches. Six cricket wickets will be decreased to three, overlapping the football pitches. Community athletics field event facilities, community outdoor netball/tennis/basketball courts and model aircraft flying will be lost. School and community sporting events will not be possible.
We are told there will be an investment of £8M to include a community sports pavilion and some undefined sports activities. However, the only pressing identified need is changing rooms and these would not cost more than £3 million.
Councillors have been shown a ludicrously low valuation for Warren Farm of £1.8 to £2.25 million. But this is only relevant for sports grounds with no development potential. To build private facilities such are planned here, a company would have to buy land on the open market at a price of about £35m. (The land appropriate for company facilities would be industrial/commercial which has a value of about £850,000 per acre. The total value, taking 2/3 of the 61 acres, is then £34.6m.)
The upshot is that Ealing council is giving QPR land worth £35m in exchange for new changing rooms worth not more than £3m (plus £5m for some unspecified use). Ealing council are, in effect writing a fat cheque for a large private company (which happens to be bankrolled by some of the richest people in the world.)
To make the situation even worse, a large part of the existing outdoor community facilities and public access will be taken away.
This must surely be worst ever deal for Ealing’s residents and taxpayers!
We urge councillors to step in now and prevent this disastrous deal from taking place.
Nic Ferriday, Chair of Brent River & Canal Society
August 29th 2013