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Protecting space for sports in London

Alice Roberts
By Alice Roberts
9th November 2023

The ‘golf belt’ myth and London’s remaining playing fields

Lewisham FC (some members are pictured) now have their home at Bowring Sports Ground. But the ground was out of use for eight years while the owner aimed to profit from it being developed. This was despite it being protected Metropolitan Open Land.

Today we publish Protecting space for sports in London, Part 3 in our series of short reports on protecting London’s parks and green spaces.

High land values mean developers are buying more and more of London’s playing fields for their ‘hope value’ and taking them out of use in the hope that communities will forget about them.

They then have a vested interest in promoting the lifting of land protections. One way they do this is to create narratives which they feel may gain political traction. These are in fact false narratives: ‘we need Green Belt land to solve the housing crisis’ (we address this Part 1 of this series); ‘much of London’s Green Belt is worthless scrubland or ‘grey belt’ (we address this in Part 2). And, more recently ‘London’s Green Belt is full of unnecessary numbers of golf courses’.

It clearly suits developers to present a simplistic ‘Golf or Houses’ narrative. But the reality is golf courses can (if we really feel it necessary, which of course many people do not) be redeployed for other important sports, recreation or environmental uses and, in any event, building on them won’t solve the housing crisis (back to Part 1).

The new London Mayor should refrain from driving speculative purchases of playing fields and golf courses by implying that some bits of protected land are ‘worthless’. They should not buy into the ‘golf belt’ narrative which promotes the false choice: golf or houses.

Our election work

CPRE London’s commitment to London’s parks and green spaces
✓ We support local groups, helping them save vital parks; and supporting them to create new parks from neglected and derelict green spaces.
✓ We identify the reasons spaces are coming under threat and work to tackle the causes.
✓ We champion parks, green spaces, Metropolitan Open Land and Green Belt, showing why they are so important.
✓ We publicise threats and advocate for political commitment, new policies and legislation to tackle them.