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QPR Face Legal Challenge Over Warren Farm Development

Thu 30th Jan 2014 | Football Stadiums & Facilities

Queens Park Rangers’ plans to build a new Training and Academy centre could be under threat after a campaign group lodged papers in the High Court claiming the decision to allow the development was unlawful.

‘Save Warren Farm’ campaigners lodged papers in the High Court of Justice to Judicially Review Ealing Council’s decision to sign over 61 acres of London’s Green Belt, rent free for 200 years, to QPR for their new Training and Academy HQ. 

Campaigners allege that the decision is unlawful on several grounds including the enclosure of Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and concerns about the impartiality of councillors handling both the decision to grant the rent-free lease and the planning permission.

Warren Farm Playing Fields in the London Borough of Ealing are designated MOL and Community Open Space, within the Brent River Park.  The land has been used as playing fields for the Borough’s schools and local sports clubs for over 50 years, but successive Councils have allowed the changing rooms to fall into disrepair.

“Ealing plans to give away this valuable green space, currently dedicated in its entirety to community sport, for seven generations,” says Carolyn Brown, Chair of Hanwell Community Forum.

“In order to help justify this deal,” she continues, “Ealing Council has valued this land at between £1.8-2.25m, the equivalent of a single, large house in central Ealing, and what we understand to be only approximately 6-7% of its true market value.  And this is in return for an unsubstantiated figure they claim to be of around £8m which they have failed to break down clearly, and which even the developer’s senior management disputed in a public forum.”

Plans approved by Ealing’s Planning Committee in April show that two thirds of the land would be dedicated to the privately-owned QPR Training and Academy business, with the remaining third of the land supporting a smaller number of overlapping football pitches and cricket wickets for community sport, and serviced by a small sports pavilion.  The whole of the 61 acre site would be secured behind 8 foot high, opaque fencing, with public access to the Training and Academy areas prohibited, and access to the community areas controlled by QPR.

"Warren Farm is on Metropolitan Open Land” states John Croxen, Chair of CPRE London*,which according to the London Plan has the same protection as Green Belt land.  CPRE London is receiving increasing numbers of reports from across London about planning proposals on precious Green Belt and open land.

“It’s time to put a stop to this steady whittling away of protected land,” he continues. 

“Once it is lost we won't get it back.  Warren Farm is used and valued by local people and Ealing Council should comply with national planning policy that calls for councils to 'plan positively to enhance the beneficial use of the Green Belt'**, and further that 'The planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by protecting and enhancing valued landscapes'***”

QPR’s development would comprise a two storey plus basement training centre building, a three storey multi-functional ‘operations’ building (both the equivalent of a four/five storey block of flats), and an indoor sports hall (equivalent to a 5-6 storey residential block).  There would be two other ancillary buildings, including an energy centre, the emissions stacks on which would also be the equivalent of 5-6 storeys high. 

“We oppose significant development on Metropolitan Open Land”, asserts Robert Gurd, Chair of Ealing Civic Society.  “Instead of being sensitively designed to fit in with its surroundings the proposed buildings would jar like a very bulky warehouse in the countryside,” he concludes.

The club aims to bring the new facilities into use in 2016.

*  CPRE is the Campaign to Protect Rural England. http://www.cpre.org.uk/about-us http://www.cprelondon.org.uk/about-us

** Paragraph 81, and *** Paragraph 109 of the National Planning Policy Framework.  Published 27 March 2012 by the Department of Communities and local Government.  ISBN 9781409834137

 

Posted by: Aaron Gourley

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