A disagreement over football pitches on Highbury Fields looks set to continue, despite Islington Council’s promise to reinstate goal posts.
The goal posts were removed during refurbishment of an asphalt area where local children regularly played football.
The refurbishment, sponsored by Arsenal Football Club, was completed in May. Three football pitches, all with netted goal posts, were replaced by an AstroTurf pitch and four brand new netball courts.
Highbury mum Jo Sargent, 44, believes that this change was motivated by money: “The council need to make their money back – they hire out the AstroTurf and netball pitches, limiting kids’ chance to play.
“The council has turned a community hub into a cash machine,” she said.
Paul Smith, councillor for Holloway, told the Islington Gazette in June: “There will be new goals for footballers to use when there is no netball”, but these have not yet materialised.
Last week Councillor Smith told the Islington Tribune: “We’ve ordered the goals and as soon as we have a delivery date, we’ll let the local community know.”
Despite this promise Ms Sargent, a mother of three, remains “concerned” that community usage will be restricted by regular court hire.
Aquaterra, which manages the leisure facilities in partnership with Islington council, is unable to disclose information about its regular bookings but said all netball court bookings were charged at £30 an hour.
Sarah Annoh of the All Nations netball league confirmed it had regular bookings of the courts on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, between 6 and 9pm, for social netball matches.
“Who is the space for?” Ms Sargent said. “The AstroTurf pitch is always mobbed by teenagers who won’t let nine, 10 and 11-year-olds use it, and they aren’t allowed to play football on the grass.”
“It’s a real disappointment. The kids have nowhere else to go. We’ve lost what was a hub of the community.”
“Of course the goal posts aren’t essential,” she added, “but the children feel they’ve been punished.”
Just two months after the goal posts were removed, a wooden sculpture of a footballer was erected outside the new netball courts.
“I wondered if it was raised in an ironic fashion,” said Ms Sargent, who hopes the new goal posts will be in place before Christmas.