Hyde Park ‘must give over space to sports pitches’

Swathes of Hyde Park should be turned into football, rugby and cricket pitches to increase sporting opportunities for Londoners, politicians said today.

Labour London Assembly member Murad Qureshi and Green member Jenny Jones want more pitches introduced before the 2012 Olympics.

The calls come after Prince William launched a campaign to safeguard 2,012 public playing fields as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Mr Qureshi was responsible for an Assembly report into London’s playing fields in 2006, which concluded that the 1,500 sites then remaining should be protected.

He believes sports facilities in the Royal Parks cater for “corporate customers” only, and that new public playing fields would meet local needs.

Among the Royal Parks — which also include St James’s Park, Richmond Park and Regent’s Park — he highlighted Hyde Park as having sufficient unused space.

The Royal Parks are expected soon to come under Boris Johnson’s control and Mr Qureshi is urging the Mayor to make playing fields a priority.

Ms Jones said the Royal Parks were “a wonderful resource that could be

Affordable sports areas in Royal Parks would help groups such as the charity London Tigers, which organises sports including football
and cricket for disadvantaged young people.

They used to play in Regent’s Park until costs drove them out of the city centre.

A Royal Parks spokesman said: “We invested over £2 million six years ago to improve playing fields in Regent’s Park and we ensure youth sports teams and community groups have priority and benefit from subsidised prices.

“There are playing fields in Hyde Park, Richmond Park, Bushy Park and Greenwich Park.

“We need to balance the needs of all these people. At the moment we have no plans for more playing fields.”

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