Newly-re-elected Labour London Assembly Member Murad Qureshi has expressed his literally grave concern over the future of London’s playing fields as a council proposes turning one field into a cemetery.
Murad, who is himself a keen sportsman, has joined campaigners in Kingston to call for the former BBC Sports Ground in Motspur Park to be saved from plans to turn them into gravespace.
‘I’ve been concerned about this issue for a long time’, Murad explains. ‘During the last administration, I undertook a rapporteurship as Deputy Chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee on this very subject. I found that there has been a significant loss of playing fields and outdoor recreation space over the past 15 years. Yet we all know how important it is for everyone to have access to leisure and sports facilities. The report contained a number of recommendations including the need to enshrine more protection for playing fields in the London Plan.’
He went on: ‘The situation at Motspur Park truly is a grave one. The site was well used by families and sports clubs before it was sold to a developer. As it’s Metropolitan Open Land, plans to develop the site fell, so it’s easier to sell off the land as a cemetery.
‘It seems that there is actually no need for a new cemetery in the area as there are two very large ones nearby in any case. But it’s easier and cheaper for developers to flog off the land than try to find creative ways of putting the site back into use for leisure activities.
‘This is why our playing fields need to have some sort of protected use status in planning regulations – clearly the Metropolitan Open Land rules are not always enough to prevent the loss of playing fields. I’ll be calling on Kingston Council not to dispose of this sports ground as well as lobbying the new Mayor for more protection for these vital venues.’