Andy Slaughter MP has described it as a licence to print money, pointing out that it also gets the Council a £70,000 a year windfall, but means residents lose their park which will be converted to commercial pitches, a car park, and a late opening restaurant/bar which they fear will attract anti-social behaviour
Mr Slaughter had been asking the council and the firm involved to publish the terms of the deal. But he says he was stonewalled until recently when he was given a set of papers with all the figures redacted. Not much use - until one of his staff spotted that they hadn't been redacted properly and was able to reveal the figures under the wodges of “ink” covering them. Oops.
So the following “hidden” information was revealed recently to White City Residents at a meeting of their Neighbourhood Forum:
- PlayFootball will make over £400,000 pa net profit, almost half the total income from the scheme and a 20% return on investment, i.e. they will recoup their investment within five years.
- They will do this by charging £91 an hour for 7 aside and £68 an hour for five aside pitches in one of the least well-off communities in London.
- Apart from two free pitches all the rest (12 altogether) will be let out commercially, so a car park for over 60 cars will be built on the park for users travelling into the area.
- The council will get £70,000 a year from the deal, residents will get a derisory one off payment of £5,000 for alternative pitches during development. There will also be £75,000 supposedly to invest in the rest of the park but £25,000 of this has already been spent by the council on helping SERCO move one of its depot buildings
“When I turned up at the White City Neighbourhood Forum and told them all this, Play Football, the firm involved were quite relaxed about me uncovering the figures they had redacted them - surprise, surprise - at the council's request.
|Artists impression: New|
“I can only conclude that the council felt ashamed that they were selling off a public park, much-loved by the local community and making them pay to use parts of it that weren’t being turned into a car park. Why else would they want to keep these figures "commercially confidential" when the firm they were doing business with was happy to have them in the public domain?”But speaking yesterday and defending the scheme Cllr Greg Smith, deputy leader of the Council, argued:
"This is an absolutely fantastic deal for Shepherds Bush and White City residents, unparalleled anywhere else in the country.I drive past that park most days and these pictures illustrate just how needed this investment is. But the sort of secrecy about the choices this council is making to meet that need is far from helpful, least of all to them because it leaves them vulnerable to this sort of criticism. What's wrong with asking residents not just about the problems but the solutions to meet them? Now that would be innovative.
“The council has secured £2 million to be spent in Hammersmith Park at zero cost to the taxpayer with two dedicated free pitches for the local community.
“Residents have been asking us to upgrade the obsolete all-weather pitch for several years and feedback about the new scheme has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Even in these tough economic times, we are proving that it is possible to improve services for residents through innovative ways of working.”