London

Flora London Marathon saves another threatened playing field

The London Marathon Charitable Trust has saved another London playing field using funds allocated from the record surplus made by the London Marathon Limited in 2006.

The Birkbeck College playing fields in Greenford, west London, are the fifth set of playing fields in the capital to be saved from the clutches of private developers by the London Marathon in five years.

The fields were being underused by the local community and threatened by vandalism before the London Marathon provided £850,000 to the London Playing Fields Foundation to buy the land from the City Parochial Foundation, to install drainage and update equipment. The fields Рto be renamed the London Marathon Playing Fields - will now be owned and managed by the Foundation.

The London Marathon believes recreational space is a vital part of every community, but there is no statutory protection for playing fields in the UK, and on average one playing field every day comes under threat from building development.

John Disley, chairman of the London Marathon Charitable Trust said: "This opportune purchase of another threatened London playing field shows how vital it is for funds to be instantly available to forestall the ever land-hungry ‘developer'.

"The London Marathon Charitable Trust has recognised this factor and the trustees have already allocated substantial additional funds to their playing fields account so they will be ready to step in promptly when a sixth suitable playing field comes under threat."

Dr Charles Goodson-Wickes, chief executive of the London Playing Fields Foundation, said: "Our partnership with the London Marathon Charitable Trust has proved itself the most effective agent for saving playing fields in Greater London. Their support for our charitable objects is absolutely invaluable.

"This is the third ground that our charity has acquired thanks to their enlightened assistance. This is a tribute to their vision and their confidence in our ability to run grounds in a sustainable way for local communities."

The grant to save the Greenford playing fields is just one of 37 awarded to sports projects and recreation facilities around the capital by the Trust in 2006/07. The grants amount to more than £3 million, bringing the total donated by the Trust since its inception in 1981 to £21,953,784. The Trust has aided more than 600 projects in London, plus others in Birmingham, Milton Keynes and Liverpool.

This year projects across the London boroughs have been allocated grants of between £3,500 and £150,000. The largest grant, of £150,000, was donated to develop an indoor athletics centre next to the Terence McMillan Athletics Stadium in Newham.

The trustees also made grants of £100,000 to the Corporation of London for new changing rooms at Wanstead Flats; £100,000 to the London Community Cricket Association to install indoor training facilities at Plough Lane Cricket Centre in Sutton; £92,053 to the Metropolitan Housing Trust for a new sports hall at Corry Drive; and £135,000 to the Royal Parks to refurbish the sports pavilion and six tennis courts in Greenwich Park.