Increasing participation in sport is good, especially in a society plagued by poor health.
However, in a crowded world with ever increasing pressure on limited green space, local residents will be concerned by the losses created by pre-Olympics sports development. Hackney Council took the decision to construct eight cricket pitches on Hackney Marshes at precisely the time we lose 20 hectares of amenity sports land (ie East Marsh) to an Olympic coach park.
In order to squeeze in the new cricket pitches on top of the existing football pitches, and rugby/football pitches transferred from East Marsh, the Council has ‘stolen’ part of the Hackney Marshes nature reserve.
The north marsh meadow, experimental woodland and old car park (excellent for wild flowers and invertebrates) are all affected by the huge sports development. Twenty six large trees have been felled. The new cricket pitches breach all the basics of sound, ecological land management.
This comes on top of tree felling and a land grab for the south marsh sports hub. There has also been land lost on Hackney Downs to tennis courts. People will have to pay for all the new facilities.
Current sports development is damaging Hackney’s green spaces, and the failure to manage real and potential conflicts is not helping community cohesion. Furthermore, the emphasis is on elite achievement rather than grassroots participation.
Many football clubs may fold whilst they are displaced by the East Marsh car park. Cricket and tennis are both managed by national institutions with little awareness or sympathy for the bulk of Hackney residents. I love cricket and welcome greater participation. I do not welcome colonisation by wealthy incomers for whom precious green space is being partitioned, reserved and privatised.
More from Russell Miller at Hackney Environment Network.