Opposing View: The Fight for Warren Farm

On 22 September we posted the article The Fight for Warren Farm. In response to our support for the Save Warren Farm Campaign – which opposes the development of the land by Queens Park Rangers Football Club – Declan Devine got in touch on Twitter. An Ealing resident and QPR fan, Declan is in support of the proposed development and feels that the Save Warren Farm group do not represent the community at large.

In the interest of fairness it seemed right to give Declan an opportunity to outline his views, and give the Save Warren Farm group an opportunity to respond to them. We do not want to edit their words, so what you’re about to read are their comments in full, unedited.

Here is a 2013 article by Declan originally published on Vital QPR

“Warren Farm, by a local resident and QPR fan’s view

I have a real interest in Warren Farm, from the back of my house I can view the old changing rooms on Warren Farm in the distance, I sometimes walk my dog on Warren Farm, and my son’s football team has played there in the recent past. I am also a QPR fan for as long as I can remember and a season ticket holder for many years.

So when QPR announced that they were looking at Warren farm as the venue for the new training facility I was delighted, and not just because it’s QPR.

Ealing council have neglected Warren Farm for years, the changing rooms are in a terrible state, really run down, showers not working, no hot water, bleak and totally unwelcoming. The pitches are good but not maintain the way they should be, or rock hard in the summer. In fact the whole place feels dire, and with no hope of any investment from Ealing Council to even try to lift the place.

So looking at QPRs plans and seeing the community facility’s included, knowing how good QPR in the community has been over the last 20 years, I felt this was a great decision by Ealing Council. Local kids will get the full benefits of this, the community sporting facility will be open for residence of Ealing Borough, QPR will become more active in shaping youth football, getting kids active, and bring something to Ealing that they have never had; a link to a professional football team and hopefully a premiership football team going forward.

Yes, a large proportion of the facility will be private, but that is expected as QPR will be the tenants investing over 20 million, and will create state of the art training facility for the club and academy.

Planning something on this scale is never straightforward, there will always be people opposed to change, and others who want to make political gains from opposing the councils decision. So it came as no surprise that a local group Hanwell Community Forum (HFC) were against the plan to hand over the land to QPR on a 200 year lease.

Some of the early comments to local press and on their website were nearly comical. Some examples like “Paparazzi will invade privacy in the area for local residents and cause a nuisance” or “the plans will add to parking issues in Old Hanwell”, which actually is on the other side of a railway track and a canal, or I won’t be able to walk my dog on Warren Farm are really not reasons to object.

Now their legal action seems to be based on the fact that Warren Farm is Metropolitan Open Land, and Ealing Council are giving away this land to QPR, and the public will lose the right of way to the land. They have the backing of the opposition Conservative, Liberal and Green parties in Ealing as well as a local law firm who are providing the legal advice.

What is annoying is that HCF state they are representing the views of people in Hanwell and Ealing, well they do not represent me, or in fact many people in the Borough of Ealing. There is also great deal of support for the plans on Warren Farm, support that may not be as vocal as the HCF but is there, and maybe now is the time to show that support as well.

To get a true refection of what is best for Warren Farm and what’s best for residence of Ealing we need to understand how Warren Farm is used now and where its located. It is true that Warren Farm is metropolitan open land but Ealing is very lucky to have plenty of open land in the Borough, and Warren farm is adjacent to the Brent River Park, Elthorne Park, Long Wood and Osterley Park is further down the road from Warren Farm. The entrance is on Windmill Lane, which is not very residential in fact the nearest resident is the Sultan of Brunei who has a large property and grounds opposite Warren Farm.

For years Warren farm has been used by local Saturday and Sunday league football teams, both adult and junior. Officially there are 12 full size pitches and several junior pitches. In total over 20 pitches. Also cricket pitches in the summer, as well as other events that Ealing Council has rented the grounds out for. Other local groups using the grounds including Warren Farm Radio Flyers. The land is also used by local people to walk dogs, jog, kick a ball around, flying kites, etc.

But in truth most of the week it’s empty, just a few dog walkers if you’re lucky. Only at weekends are the pitches utilized. It’s a shame that the council has never made more of the facilities. If they had then there would not be a need to rent the land to QPR, and all local political parties are to blame for the years of no investment, letting the changing rooms fall in to disrepair, and not utilizing the land to its potential.

So do we sit back and let a local group fight to keep Warren Farm in the state that it’s in, so just a small amount of people can walk their dogs, or stroll across a field based on a right to have freedom of access or do we let QPR rent the land, build a state of the training facility for the club and build a fantastic new community facility with indoor and outdoor pitches, that will serve local people for years to come, benefiting schools, local clubs, sporting organization’s across the Borough of Ealing, helping to keep our kids fit, and maybe most important of all having QPRs excellent community trust becoming more involved in Ealing in general? In fact last summer QPRs Community trust attended the local Hanwell Carnival. It’s always a great day and even better for having QPR there, they ran several events including kids football training, matches, games, and also had a club shop stand, this was a small taste of what we can expect in the future.

I really hope that Hanwell Community forum court actions do not spoil what would be something fantastic for Ealing, and that they understand what’s best for the greater number of people throughout the Borough of Ealing.”

With Declan’s permission we passed this article on to the Save Warren Farm group. Malcolm Weller from the group responded via email:

“It is true that there are about 40 QPR supporters who have indicated that they would like their football club to receive public land at no cost to the club. What club would turn down such an offer?

The reality is that this is public land and the public should have the right to determine how it is used. To date 1430 members of the public (including a number of QPR fans) have signed a petition saying that they would like the public to keep this land and not give it to QPR. 

Therefore it would seem that HCF and SWF do reflect the majority view.

It is also true that Ealing Council have neglected the changing rooms but this should not be used as an excuse to dispose of the land. Ealing Council have succeeded in obtaining funds to improve the facilities at other Ealing parks. Ealing Council donated £150,000 to build new changing rooms for Larksupur Rovers who were based at Warren Farm but they insisted that the team move out of Warren Farm to Lord Halsbury playing fields. Larksupur Rovers received over £1M of funding from sources including Sport England.

I think the facts speak for themselves.”

We next gave Declan an opportunity to respond to Malcolm’s points. And he responded via email:

“First, the point 40 QPR fans have indicated support, where does he get that number?

If I thought it was necessary I could drum up thousands of QPR fans to support this with a petition, I am a member of many QPR fans forums each with over several thousand members and 99% would support the project, but this would not be just or fair as most of these fans are not local to the site and would only be supporting due to there support of QPR, but it is something that could be done, and has been talked about on these forums.

Looking through the petition and people who have signed there support for SWF they really do not care where there objectors come from, New York, Canada etc by rough calculations I would say only 50% of the people who have signed the petition are Ealing residents and only 50% of them are really local to the site. and many of the comments made are general comments about open land, not based on the full understanding of Warren Farm.

As to the other comments about Larkspur Rovers, I think he needs to ask Larkspur if he really can comment for them? I am a person very involved with Youth football in Ealing, (A team manager and committee member for Acton Ealing Whistlers for many years) I know a lot of history regarding the building of Larkspurs new home, something they are very proud of. One further point on this, Did the council ask Larkspur to move away from Warren Farm? As the plans for there new home was several years before any talk of the QPR project. So again I would like the truths to be accurate not hear say or made up, which is a trend amongst the SWF people. I suggest contacting Larkspur Rovers for their actual comment.

My own team the Whistlers are based at Hillcrest and we received a grant from Sport England, Queen Elisabeth Fields, Middlesex FA of around £30K to add drainage to our ground, even though we lease from the council they would not add any money to the project, but did insist on appointing the contractor to take on the project. I also know of several other projects helping local youth football teams around west and north London. The point of this is all these local teams need help and support both from the council, volunteers and support of the local professional football teams.

Malcolm last comment “I think the facts speak for themselves.” Sorry but what facts did he mention? Where did the FACT 40 QPR supports come from? The 1430 people who have signed the petition is actually a small number, not even as many people who voted at last last local council elections in the the Elthrone ward, and the fact about Larkspur Rovers is not fact, as they were moving away from Warren Farm well before the QPR project.

So this is why at times I have been left frustrated by some of the comments made by SWF and HCF. If you are to fight something then at least use true facts !!

Also one last point which is fact, the only political party that supported the QPR and the Warren Farm project was Labour at last years council elections, and in the Enthrone ward all 3 councillors to win were labour, also Labour increased their number of seats, so if Warren Farm had been such a local issue with people feeling so strong against the project surely Labour would not have won, especially in the local wards to Warren Farm, now that is a Fact !!”

Addressing Declan’s question about the 40 QPR fans, Malcolm said via email that, “There were 40 responses in favour of the planning application and 200+ against. It is in the council notes.

This is just a small example of the arguments for and against the proposal. Passions run high on both sides of the debate, and with no possibility of compromise, these tensions show no signs of abating – nor should they.

Thank you to Declan and Malcolm for contributing to this article and giving a voice to both sides of this debate, courteously and respectfully.

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