Published On: 20th February 2024

Community’s legal letter stopped plans in their tracks, showing Redbridge Council that they won’t back down

The PILC team, along with over 600 members of Bealonians FC and their community are relieved to see that Redbridge Council have backed down on plans to hand over treasured playing fields to West Ham United FC.

Recently valued at over $1bn by Forbes, West Ham United FC wanted to take over the space for a training ground. Bealonians FC is a registered charity, and is a grassroots sports club for the local community, offering football and cricket facilities to a wide range of ages and abilities including youth and senior football teams. Oakfield Playing Fields is known legally as an “asset of community value” and is home to the much-loved local club Bealonians FC.

The community were understandably outraged when they were informed of the intention to lease to West Ham United FC in a Cabinet meeting in October last year.

Now, following the threat of legal proceedings, Redbridge Council has confirmed it won’t implement the plans as detailed in October’s cabinet meeting.

The decision is a huge relief – but it doesn’t mean the site will be protected in the long term. The council could decide to market it again, putting the site at risk once again.

But the council’s U-turn is huge testament to how powerful local communities are when facing the loss of community spaces like Oakfield Playing Fields. It sends a strong message that these spaces are fiercely protected by those that use them, and will not go without a fight.

Harriet Child, a lawyer at PILC who worked with the local community in writing their legal letter, said “We’re relieved to see this site remain a public asset for the borough. We hope this decision signals the start of the Council recognising its immense value to local residents and protecting it in the long run”.

At the Public Interest Law Centre, we work tirelessly with local communities in their fight to save community spaces. We work to protect these valuable spaces from being sold or leased for private gain.

If a space or place that is treasured by your local community is under threat and you want our support, please get in touch with Harriet Child on harriet.child@pilc.org.uk.