The Future of Sport in the Park

On 31 March Jonathan Kirby, the Assistant Director of Ealing’s Major Projects Team, led a presentation at a public meeting on the future of sport in the Park. You can see the slides of his presentation here.

The proposal is to build a two-storey building (with basement) on the disused bowling green (between the car park and the children’s playground) and bring all the new outdoor sports near to it, at the “top” of the large field. The pitch and putt course will now be moved to the bottom of the field, near to the Potomac lake. One benefit of this was that it would have less impact on the biodiversity around the lake than any other proposal. The Greenscene depot (behind the walls) may be converted into an additional car park.

The building (called a Sports Hub) will have a high-roofed multi-use sports hall on the path side and on the field side will have a café, 8 changing rooms, showers and rooms for officials, with locker space in corridors. On the floor above will be 2 multi-use studio spaces, offices and other rooms. The basement might be used Museum storage (as long as there is no danger of water flooding in from above). The architect showed preliminary drawings of a modern building, predominately finished in wood.

Gathered around the building will be 8 full size natural grass football and rugby pitches (and some junior sized pitches) and 3 adult cricket pitches, 2 artificial grass pitches and a multi-use games area. 8 tennis courts will be laid out with floodlighting (which will also illuminate the artificial grass pitches). There will be an outdoor gym, distance markers and a trim trail to help people use the park for exercise as well as sport. This choice of sports and facilities had been led by a consultant’s analysis of what the area most needed.Outline proposals for sport map

Jonathan and his team have been consulting funding bodies – Sport England, the Football Foundation, the England Cricket Board, the Lawn Tennis Association and the London Marathon Charitable Trust – and they seem to be supportive. There are two “prices” for these proposals – a “minimum viable option” for £5m and a larger scheme for £8m. Both schemes will require finding a commercial partner, and expressions of interest are now being sought.

With questions from the 25 (approx) members of the audience, and discussion, the session lasted 2½ hours and not all topics were covered. For example, no proposals were made for the existing changing room site (other than the news that conditions within were so poor they were now unusable). We learnt that the sports hall would be able to cater for minority sports, that there may be the opportunity for surfaces on some of the tennis courts that are more forgiving when players take a tumble, that the placing of the pitches on the slope of the park is still being worked out, as is the position of the unofficial path from the entrance at the top of Lionel Road through the middle of the park. Fears of light pollution were met with the virtues of new technology and skilful design. Fencing and CCTV will add to security, and there is still work to do on issues around water-logging and underground cables. Car parking was discussed on the basis that these facilities would attract more parking of two sorts – regular use throughout the day, and heavy use at times of peak demand. The entrance/exit onto Pope’s Lane is narrow, and a proposal outlined at a public meeting in 2014 for a dedicated cycle route through it would now be even more difficult to achieve. Fans arriving by car at Brentford FC’s stadium would now probably use the car parks of the offices on the Great West Road (which had been a possible solution for the park’s winter weekend sport problems) – the park might become an attractive overflow site. Fans arriving at Acton Town on foot will be aiming for the exit at the bottom of the park on the Great West Road (and back again after the match).

One of the principles behind the first (1990s) Development Plan was to make better use of the park by spreading facilities throughout it, a principle which we thought was still a priority. The concentration of park users around the café, Round Pond, children’s playground and car park area has already made the whole experience difficult for visitors on busy warm days, while whole sections of the park are hardly visited. This sports plan may well intensify that concentration, especially as it seems to require a significant expansion of car parking. With hopes of increasing visitor numbers to 1 million, the need for some master-planning for the park landscape as a whole has become urgent, and surely must be a pre-condition for seeking planning approval for this sports proposal.

(An account of this discussion has subsequently been been published on this web site – you can find it here.)

They are intending to finish the consultation by May and then apply to LB Hounslow for planning permission, with the aim to complete the project in 2017. If you click on the link at the top of this article you can see the details and images from the presentation. We have assembled a map with the site of the main features marked, from the record we were able to make at the meeting. The black captions refer to existing provision and the white to the general location of some of the proposed new facilities.

James Wisdom
11 April 2015