CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

World Cup success – but we fail on playing fields for kids

18 July, 2019

Nick Brown

THE sudden burst of enthusiasm for cricket, following the England side’s World Cup win, may have subsided by the time the football season starts next month.

But the memorable nature of the victory will have, at the least, inspired a few young friends to pick up a bat, ball and stumps and head down to the park.

What will they find? Barren creases and mole-pocked boundaries, according to Hampstead Cricket Club chairman Nick Brown.

Successful clubs use the parks to blood the new juniors, but many are soon turned-off by the “terrible facilities”, he says.

Outreach exercises with schools have had “mixed success”.

Mr Brown’s points open up a debate about the variety of sports available to children in state schools today.

The current generation of schoolchildren has been short-changed. Very few Camden children will have gone through secondary school years having played a match of cricket. The same could be said for many other sports, though this is a national issue.

Recent figures show how timetabled PE and games lessons for 14 to 16-year-olds have been cut back.

With large classrooms, it is perhaps easier for school managers to push crowds of children out into the park, or concrete playground pitches, with a football – and let them get on with it.

PE equipment is sparse; rarely replaced when damaged. The Prince Edward Playing Fields, in Edgware, once part-owned by Camden, and used by some of the borough’s schools for PE lessons, was eventually sold-off to Barnet Football Club. At the same time, perfectly manicured greens are fenced-off in Highgate and

Hampstead for private school pupils.

Organised sport is one of the few real joys in life. The mental and physical health benefits are obvious. Why are our girls and boys being deprived of it?

Our land

THE battle for Bassett Street allotments looks to set to blossom into a full blown row.

Whatever the outcome, the story opens up questions about over-development and how decisions are made.

How much green space do built-up areas need? How much land should be reserved for housing? If a development is approved, how many homes should the council be demanding?

The council could be said to be punching above its weight when it comes to these ratios, compared to scandalous land sales and warehousing of social-rent housing that has been approved in neigh­bouring Westminster or Brent, for example. But publicly-owned land has, increasingly in the past 30 years, been sold or leased-out on the cheap.

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