Save udney park playing fields
Richmond Council has approved the Teddington Society’s recent nomination of Udney Park as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). This replaces the original ACV which was expiring soon. The ACV covers the playing fields, war memorial pavilion and car park as they are indivisible in terms of Udney Park serving the community.
Udney Park already been permanently designated as a Local Green Space and the Planning Inspector at the 2020 Public Inquiry was unequivocal that Udney Park War Memorial Playing Field is not suitable for any development, based on it's recreational, ecological and heritage value to the community. The Council have firmly re-stated that their Planning advice is very strong in terms of protecting Udney Park, per the Local Plan and London Plan.
The range of legal protections on Udney Park should ensure the future of Park is as a community facility, owned by a Charitable Trust and run by local people. Since 2015 when Imperial College sold to Quantum, "Environmental, Social and Governance" matters are now central to financial decision-making so the idea of speculating to build on a playing field with 9 protected species is now unethical.
“We are pleased that our ACV request has been successful, and we hope this will contribute to all of the playing fields soon becoming permanently accessible for community sport” said Keith Atkinson, leader of the Teddington Society Planning Group.
Quantum have triggered the Asset of Community Value (“ACV”) moratorium period. This means that legally there must be a maximum 6 month window to sell to a community bidder, as defined in the ACV Legislation. The Trust will continue to campaign for Udney Park to be owned and managed by the local community and then protected in perpetuity by the Fields in Trust Centenary Fields project. Lord Beaverbrook played a pivotal part in defending Britain in World War 2, the only morally acceptable outcome for Udney Park is a community playing field for "amateur sport" as Beaverbrook enshrined in covenants when he donated the Park.
Through the ACV sale process, the UPPF Trust remain fully committed to ensuring a community-based group acquires permanent ownership of Udney Park, in a spirit of partnership with the departing owners who pride themselves on "community engagement" and state that “through our actions we will make real difference that creates a sustainable, positive legacy”
In 2015, Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London, said in Mayor’s Questions:
“The London Plan policy is absolutely clear that you cannot have a loss of open space. I note that Udney Park was donated by Lord Beaverbrook specifically for use as rugby union pitches. It would be an absolute scandal and an outrage if Udney Park was lost for that purpose”.
The Teddington community will fight for as long as it takes to get the only morally defendable outcome on Udney Park.
In order to secure the future, following advice from local Councillors, the The Teddington Society has taken legal soundings on the mechanism of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) by the Council followed by a Community Asset Transfer (CAT) funded by the Community at zero cost to the Council.
Richmond Council has obligations to provide playing pitch capacity in the Local Plan and has in the past successfully acquired a playing field via a CPO. If the Asset of Community Value process fails to deliver a community-owned asset for all of Imperial College Sportsground as the ACV legislation is designed for, then the CPO/CAT option becomes the next step in the battle for Udney Park.
People live in Teddington for a life-time, 6 years have been wasted over the future of Udney Park since Imperial College sold to Quantum. We will fight for 6 more years if necessary though we hope that common sense prevails and that Udney Park is back in charitable ownership before 2022, its Centenary year.
May 2020 Update
Udney Park saved at Public Inquiry
In May 2020 after a 14-day Public Inquiry the Planning Inspectorate comprehensively rejected the Quantum scheme to build on part of Udney Park. Quantum hired leading "A-list" Barristers, Solicitors, Planning Consultants and other Experts. The Council protected Udney Park as playing fields and precious green space exactly as the legally binding Local Plan demands. Sport England and the England & Wales Cricket Board also had their own Barrister and expert witnesses.
The Teddington Society and Udney Park Trust hired their own Barrister, Planning Consultant and Ecology Expert. The arguments made by the Council, Sport England and the Community comprehensively won the day despite the expensively assembled Appeal by Quantum, running to 90,000 pages. The Inspectors' Report was clear and comprehensive, Udney Park is protected open land and is not suitable for any residential development.
As well as Board-level focus from Sport England to avoid the terrible precedent of losing a protected playing field, the Public Inquiry also saw contributions from two other national statutory bodies. Firstly, Heritage England weighed in because Udney Park is a War Memorial with a notable Pavilion designed by a notable architect that featured in the 1924 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Natural England also submitted a statement to the Inquiry given the special ecology of Udney Park, no less than 9 protected species are present at Udney Park in an ecology network of local SSSIs. Udney Park is currently being evaluated for a Heritage listing and as a Site of Metropolitan Interest for Nature Conservation
Udney Park is protected by multiple statutory designations. It is an Asset of Community Value, which imposes measures on an sale process by Quantum designed to enable a transfer of ownership to the community. Udney Park is Local Green Space, protected in law to level of Green Belt. This is a very high threshold of protection, especially in the case of Udney Park as the status of Local Green Space was bestowed after a High Court case and a senior Planning Inspector making the designation, not the Local Authority. Udney Park is also Open Land of Townscape Importance, another important protection against any form of built development. The London Mayor also made strong representations against the Quantum Application and as part of London's National Park City status the Mayor has prevented loss of playing fields across London.
WHO ARE WE?
We are the Friends of Udney Park Playing Fields, a group of people from across Teddington, Richmond Borough and beyond.
When we heard that Imperial College were planning to sell these fields we came together to try to influence the sale process so that these much-loved and much-needed playing fields were preserved.
We were devastated when Imperial went back on their commitment not to sell to a developer. We have never doubted that any plan for development will ultimately fail, and we shall fight for Udney Park to be restored in full to community ownership.