CAMPAIGNERS hoping to stop playing fields from being turned into houses urged councillors to “do the maths” before making plans.
Members of the Save Oakfield Society presented a petition to Redbridge Councillors at a full council meeting at the civic offices in Ilford on Thursday night.
The decision would see sports team who train at the Oakfield Playing Fields moved further down Forest Road to Hainault Recreation Ground and Forest Playing Fields.
The authority hopes to build 600 houses on the field, in Barkingside, as part of its Local Plan 2015-2030, which aims to deliver enough housing over the next 15 years to meet targets.
But the Save Oakfield Society have spent the last eight years campaigning against the decision to build over greenbelt land.
Save Oakfield Society chairman, Dr Chris Nutt, said: “The importance of outdoor sport for Redbridge children needs to be recognised and the loss of opportunities are being ignored. There will be huge financial costs to the community if these proposals go ahead.”
“Between 2012 and 2016, Redbridge has lost 14 football pitches and 5 cricket grounds, and there are now plans to lose the large Ford ground, Billet Road and Oakfield. Alternatives have not been found, and many clubs that use Oakfield will fold.”
“Oakfield Playing Fields hold 21 football pitches and 4 cricket grounds, and 225 youngsters take part in 19 youth teams. Are you really going to kick them out?”
The Football Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board, who all have teams on the site.
In November last year, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan blocked proposals – but leader Cllr Jas Athwal says this would not hold water under government scrutiny.
Howard Berlin, of Save Oakfield Society (SOS), highlighted to councillors financial consequences of selling Oakfield.
He said: “The minimum cost of moving Oakfield clubs to Hainault and Forest Road sites would be £10 million. The annual upkeep costs for cricket squares will be £7,000-£8,000, and £15,000-£16,000 per football pitch.
“The proposed new site is on a flood plain, so the council will face much higher ongoing maintenance costs to keep up the required quality. The whole thing is uneconomic and not good for the public purse.”
But Cllr Athwal, said: “We will ensure the pitches are of a better standard than what we have now.”
Cabinet member for health and social care, Cllr Mark Santos, said: “The site gives a good opportunity to build sustainable housing which this borough needs.”
Mr Berlin responded, saying: “The houses proposed to be built on Oakfield are between £600,000 and £900,000. There is no housing crisis in Redbridge if you have a budget of this much.”
Attention was also drawn to the rising problem of child obesity in Redbridge, which Dr Nutt claimed is higher than the UK average.
He said: “Only 13 per cent of London’s greenbelt is accessible to the public. Playing fields are where good exercise starts yet we are losing them rapidly.”