Friday 17 July 2009

Don’t say you weren’t warned!

In February 2007, Don’t Call Me Dave had a frank exchange of views with Cllr John Marshall through the letters pages of the Barnet Press. Don’t Call Me Dave had written to the paper complaining about Labour’s education policies which were forcing councils to sell off playing fields.

For some reason, Cllr Marshall misconstrued this attack on Labour as an attack on Mike Freer’s administration. How could anyone ever confuse the two?

In defending an indefensible policy, Cllr Marshall explained that the playing fields at Whitings Hill school had to be sold because they were waterlogged in winter, whilst the playing fields at Broadfields school were infested with brambles. Two problems that could easily be rectified for very little cost.

In addition to Whitings Hill and Broadfields, Cllr Marshall also decided to sell off land at Chalgrove, Fairway, Northway, Hampden Way and Summerside schools.

Roll the clock forward to July 2009, and the council publishes a report authorising the purchase of three modular buildings to provide additional spaces at three Barnet schools, due to the demand for places exceeding supply. This is a national problem, but many of the other affected councils planned in advance which meant that they were able to buy their buildings for a lower cost than Barnet which had left everything until the last minute and consequently didn’t have time to run a proper tendering process.

To those of us who can think further ahead than the next election, it is self evident that if the demand for primary school places is rising, demand at secondary schools will soon follow. And just as sure as night follows day, if more children go to secondary schools, more playing fields will be required.

So when the day comes that the council suddenly realises that we do not have enough sports fields for our children, they cannot pretend that this problem could not have been foreseen.

For eight years, Don’t Call Me Dave has been calling for an end to the destruction of Barnet’s precious green spaces which are the lungs of the capital. For the sake of future generations, we must stop this insane policy of selling off “surplus” fields. It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that they won’t be surplus forever, but once you concrete over a playing field it is gone forever.

No comments: