Parklife Withdrawal Puts Dukes Meadows Masterplan in Jeopardy

£3.5 million investment in new pitches looks unlikely to proceed

riversidecafe dukes meadows
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Hounslow Council's plan for a major redevelopment of Dukes Meadows has hit a stumbling block before the project gets off the ground, with the withdrawal of the Football Association's Parklife, a key sponsor for state-of-the art football pitches.

FA Parklife was to invest £3.5million to transform the facilities at the home ground of Old Meadonian's Football Club (OMFC) site. Members of local sports clubs have told us that Parklife have said that they no longer wish to be involved in the scheme. It follows a refusal by the OMFC support the Parklife model amid concerns by the club's management.

It is understood that Parklife have informed Hounslow Council that they no longer view Riverside Lands as sustainable and they wish to look for other sites for their project. We have asked Parklife for comment.

A planning application for the overall project is due to be submitted next month to Hounslow Council which will now have to resolve the issue of the future of football on the Riverside Lands. The issue also has implications for the rowing club which shares some facilities with OMFC.

We have asked the Council for comment on the issue.

OMFC had expressed its reservations during the public consultation late last year. The club had raised concerns on the project costs and had uncertainties regarding the available funding.

The chairman of OMFC, Derek Barnett, told, "There have been a number of developments that have taken place on the Riverside Lands sporting facilities component of the Dukes Meadows Masterplan since last November. At that time Old Meadonians FC had serious concerns about the Parklife model at Riverside Lands and as a consequence voted to not support the Parklife proposals as part of the Public Consultation process.

"We continued to maintain constructive and positive dialogue with the LBH council, who were actively interested in finding a solution to meet the needs of the football club."

OMFC is now being offered a long term lease for a designated area of Riverside Lands for football use. OMFC says it is supportive of the councilís planning application for the site.

Dukes Meadows is home to a number of sports clubs in the borough, Old Meadonians Football Club (OMFC), Hounslow and Barnes Hockey Club, Chiswick Rugby Club, Thames Tradesmen Rowing Club and is used by clubs and organisations across the South East.

A redevelopment of the facilities on the Dukes Meadows playing fields and the site of the Thames Tradesmen's Clubhouse was part of the proposal to upgrade the area.

The plan was for the natural grass pitches for football and rugby to be reconfigured and floodlit and two 3G fenced artificial grass pitches for football to be added. A floodlit, partially enclosed, rugby artificial grass pitch was also planned.

The existing rowing club house was to be demolished and a new two-storey club house to built at the site, to include a café on the ground floor, which would have views of the Thames.

The Dukes Meadows Trust had previously been critical of the football scheme. They said a Parklife facility in Sheffield similar to the one proposed for Dukes Meadows attracts 80,000 visitors and there was no proper provision for improving the roads around the area. OMFC representatives had visited Sheffield to see the pitches there last year.

Currently OMFC share changing facilities with the rowing club and, in the original plan, a new single storey football clubhouse on the playing fields, comprising team changing rooms and social coaching spaces was to be built. The existing rowing club house was to be demolished along with the redundant public toilets on The Promenade.

The masterplan for the sporting facilities on Dukes Meadows has been developed in partnership with the Rugby Football Union, The Football Association and the Football Foundation, British Rowing, London Youth Rowing, England Hockey, Sport England. The new Chiswick Boathouse for Thames Tradesmen Rowing Club was to become the West London base for London Youth Rowing.

OMFC currently have a LBH Management Agreement in place to manage and maintain Riverside Lands Playing Fields and hire pitches at discounted rates to Chiswick Meadonians Youth and free of charge to Chiswick School.

The club, which currently regularly fields 10 adult 11-a-side teams, were concerned that, although the facilities to be provided under the current plan are adequate for their needs, they would be later cut back to make up any financial shortfall. OMFC is one of the largest and most successful amateur clubs in the London area.

artists impression of dukes meadowsArtist's impression of the planned Bandstand area of Dukes Meadows

The club felt that sufficient assurances had not been given that the club would not have access to fewer facilities than those currently available. In addition, even as a Partner Club, Old Meadonians were likely to pay a pitch hire charge significantly higher than the club can afford. The club say they would have would have less security of tenure than under the current arrangements.

Chiswick Rugby club meanwhile has responded positively to the Public Consultation. The RFU has supported their plans for improvements by investing £1.3 million to lay the artificial pitch and also added additional funds which means they can play on it more often and share with other rugby clubs to expand the game. They said they have been hugely impressed with the support so far from the RFU.

future bridge across the thamews

It is anticipated that funding for the project will be finalised by the Spring of 2018. The amount required is estimated to be over £10 million and there is likely to be a shortfall.

January 20, 2018

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