THE council has agreed "in principle" to close a popular sports field for 16 months so that it can be used as a car park during the 2012 Olympics.
Drapers Field in Leyton, which is used by an estimated 9,000 people a month, will be shut off to the public in September 2011 and will not re-open until December 2012.
Waltham Forest Council said the decision is subject to a consultation and a compensation package by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), which it hopes will fund the building of new facilities to make up for the long-term loss of the green space.
But critics have slammed the move as a "disgrace". According to council documents the ODA wants to use the site as a high-security "Olympic Village holding area".
The land will be fenced off, with temporary buildings constructed and the installation of 'hard' landscaping on the floor.
Speaking at a council meeting last week, council leader Chris Robbins said: “The ODA have agreed to negotiate some considerable sums of money to compensate us for the loss of this amenity.
“We would be able, through the compensation package, to completely refurbish Draper's Field...we could turn it into a very special park.”
He added: “There would also have to be a stringent agreement about how they [the ODA] hand it back. I don't want them to hand it back in a complete mess that we then have to pay to sort out.”
But Liberal Democrat leader and Leyton councillor Cllr Bob Sullivan said he was sceptical whether the council would receive satisfactory compensation for the loss.
He said: “It's the only sports field in the area and a closure for this amount of time will have a damning effect.
“It's a disgrace. We're supposed to be an Olympic borough but we're closing down one of the few well-used areas for sport.
“For example, Norlington School for Boys uses the field four days a week and they are going to find it difficult to find somewhere else to go that is affordable.”
Cllr Robbins will have delegated power to “consider” objections to the plans and to agree to a final compensation settlement, which is expected to be announced in August.
Do you use Drapers Field for sports? What do you think of the proposed closure? Contact reporter Daniel Binns on 0779 547 6625 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org