Mind the holes: assessing the damage Anita de Lotbiniere, Victoria Ellington and John Hands
Published: 6 September, 2013
by PETER GRUNER and MELINDA SZUCS
A PLANNED funfair at Highbury Fields, the second this year, should be cancelled according to residents, in order to save the ground from further cracks and deterioration.
Local novelist John Hands said the once pristine 20 acre green fields are being turned into a brown “wasteland” as a result of heavy fair ground vehicles damaging the grass and soil and creating cracks of up to 5 centimeters wide.
But local Labour Highbury West Councillor Richard Greening accused Mr Hands of being a “killjoy” for wanting to cancel the fair with less than two weeks to go before it is launched on Saturday, September 20.
”People would be very disappointed if it didn’t go ahead,” he said.
Mr Hands described how when he first moved to the area 35 years ago the Fields “were lush and green, a precious oasis of peace and beauty.”
He added: “Recent years have seen a rapid deterioration of the Lower Field.
“And rather than protecting the fields Islington council is allowing the site to deteriorate.
“The council has done nothing about the cracks, which are a health and safety hazard and could mean sprained ankles lie in wait for children and the unwary.”
He is supported by Anita de Lotbiniere and Victoria Ellington of the Highbury Fields Association.
Ms Lotbiniere said while she would have prefered the fair to have been cancelled at the very least the council can ensure that the operators put down ground protection against damage by heavy lorries. “For example they can put down a temporary plastic track that protections grass and soil from damage.”
The Association has also complained about Arsenal fans being allowed to walk across the Fields to and from the Emirates stadium as a short cut, trampling up the earth.
Residents say a widening brown path and soil compaction has been exacerbated by the decision of the council, unlike others in London, to allow barbecues on the Fields, producing a growth of burnt bare rectangles and air pollution.
Green activist Caroline Russell Green said that while she did not think the fair could be cancelled at this late stage, she agreed with residents like Mr Hands. “These large commercial events do damage to the soil. I would prefer to see smaller community events which have less impact on the ground.”
Lib Dem opposition leader Cllr Terry Stacy said it was too late to cancel the fair but he believed the council must sit down with the residents and discuss the issues.
“Are barbecues damaging the grass? We are one of the few boroughs in the capital, if not the only one, which allows people to cook up in their local park,” he said.
Cllr Richard Greening said Highbury Fields was a resource not just for local people but for those in the borough with no access to green space. “If there is a problem with the soil then the council must deal with it. Parts could be fenced off. But let’s not cancel a fair which people have been looking forward.”