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Barnet playing fields carved up: locals deserve better

Alice Roberts
By Alice Roberts
19th October 2023

For almost a century, residents of North London have benefited from public access to 18+ hectares left of Clitterhouse Playing Fields.

But a recently approved planning application means almost 4 hectares of natural grass will be fenced off for pay-to-play facilities. While (paid-for) public use will be retained – albeit at significant (and potentially exclusive) cost – access to the fields for recreational use (walking, dog-walking etc) outside of the times it is used for sports, will be lost.

The poor layout of the new fenced-off pitches (they will be spread out without thought to the impact on the rest of the area) – means even more space is lost for free recreational and informal sports.

Additionally, in order to counterbalance the biodiversity loss caused by replacing natural surface with AstroTurf, a further area will be planted with trees, shrubs, hedges and meadows. While this is in itself laudable, the reduction in space for informal sports and recreation is clear.

This space caters for 10,000+ existing residents, plus the 15,000+ new occupants of the nearby 6,700 new homes development. These playing fields are due to become the main public green space for one of the largest regeneration projects in the UK. Simply not enough consideration has been given to how to make best use of this space.

While the developers have offered the community 1,000 free hours to use the pay-to-play facilities, this is this is not realistically a valuable concession.

Now this application has been approved with conditions by Barnet Council local residents, who have campaigned for a better deal for local people, have no third party right of appeal. This is one of the most deprived areas of Barnet. So we have now written to Secretary of State Michael Gove, in support of local residents, to ask if there is anything he can do to press the developer and council to create a more egalitarian and accessible green public space.