The council has won its bid for more external funding to help provide a new £2.1m all-weather pitch in Battersea’s Falcon Park to boost sports participation and leisure facilities for the area’s young people.
The new 3G artificial grass pitch will replace four existing junior size grass pitches which are regularly deemed unplayable in the winter months because of waterlogging.
Replacing them with an all weather playing surface with floodlights means young footballers and other sports clubs will be able to use them for around 80 hours a week - compared to the ten hour limit recommended for grass pitches by the Football Association.
Funding for the scheme has now been secured from The Football Foundation, which has provided £480,000 and The London Marathon Charitable Trust which has approved a £150,000 grant. The remaining £1.4m is coming from council budgets.
An artist's impression of the new pitch
The new pitch is to be sited in the south west corner of Falcon Park. It will be used mainly for football but will also support other sports like rugby and cricket.
It has been designed to have the least impact on this important green open space which is regularly used by dog walkers and for other leisure and recreational purposes.
The investment will also pay for the construction of a modern new changing pavilion to replace the obsolete and vacant existing one.
The need to provide good quality sports pitches in this part of Battersea has been identified in the council’s Playing Pitch Strategy and there have also been requests for better facilities from local sports clubs, including the BedHead Junior Football Club, which is one the most popular and best attended in the area.
BedHead, and its charitable arm, The Guy Mascolo Football Charity, run many football coaching programmes in the local community and manage more than 25 youth teams. The club also offers free drop-in sessions and works closely with local schools and with the council’s youth service to deliver a Positive Lifestyles programme to young people in the area aged 14 to 16. The club also runs a girls’ development coaching centre and its women’s team has been competing since 2013.
The pitch will be sited in the southwest corner of the park
Due to high demand from children and young people to play in their competitive teams, they also run a player development league where anyone can come along and be part of a team on a Saturday. BedHead FC is an FA Charter Standard Development and Community Club that has recently won county and regional awards.
Improving access to sports in this part of the borough is also a key public health priority for the council.
As well as tackling obesity, participation in sport can also offer young people other health benefits. They are less likely to smoke, misuse drugs and/or alcohol and less likely to be involved in anti-social behaviour.
An aerial view of the new pitch
The proposals would leave three quarters of the park almost completely untouched, apart from a series of landscape and environmental improvements at the northern end designed to make it more attractive, improve access and encourage greater use by local people.
The proposals were subject to public consultation in the autumn of 2015. Of those who took part 55 per cent supported the council’s plans compared to 41 per cent who were opposed.
Wandsworth’s environment spokesman Cllr Steffi Sutters said: “Securing funding for this scheme is great news for everyone in this part of Battersea who wants to play football and other sports and stay fit and healthy.
“It is a particularly welcome piece of news for young people. If we want children and teenagers in the area to be active and engage in healthy sporting activities then we really need to improve the facilities in Falcon Park.
“The existing pitches are no longer fit for purpose which is why the council will now be providing an all-weather playing surface which will be available for a wide variety of sports and leisure uses.
“When we asked local people if they supported the plans a clear majority were in favour. One of the conclusions of the public consultation was the need to make sure that Falcon Park remained open and welcoming to other local groups, especially dog walkers which is why we have sited the new pitch in the south west corner of the park so that dog owners and other visitors can continue to enjoy a large uninterrupted green space.”
The council is also planning to build a brand new state-of-the-art leisure centre in this part of Battersea as part of its regeneration proposals for the York Road and Winstanley estates.
Paul Thorogood, Chief Executive of the Football Foundation, said: “It is fantastic news for Wandsworth Council to have been awarded a grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund to develop Battersea’s Falcon Park.
“Since 2000, the Foundation has awarded 328 grants worth £24.3m across London towards grassroots sports projects worth over £55.1m. This latest project, in Wandsworth, will have a great impact on the local community by opening up access to our national game and improving the quality of sporting experience they enjoy at the enhanced facilities.
“It has been made possible by investment from the Premier League, The FA and Government, via Sport England.”
Sarah Ridley, The London Marathon Charitable Trust’s Chief Grants Officer, said: “We are delighted to be supporting this important project at Falcon Park in partnership with Wandsworth Council and The Football Foundation.
“The new facilities will really benefit the local community by supporting much needed opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to be active. The project will help to address the pressing need across London to provide inclusive, accessible and affordable opportunities for children and young people to become and remain physically active. We are particularly excited by the plans to further develop girls’ football at the site and to provide more participation opportunities to children with learning disabilities and complex needs in partnership with The George Shearing Centre
“Since 1981, The London Marathon Charitable Trust has awarded grants totalling more than £70 million to 1,200+ organisations across London and the UK. The Trust supports capital projects that inspire people to lead a more active lifestyle and increase the number of people regularly taking part in sports and physical activities.”