Stop Public Land Being Given Away To Billionaires By Local Authority

by Save Warren Farm Campaign

Stop Public Land Being Given Away To Billionaires By Local Authority

by Save Warren Farm Campaign
Save Warren Farm Campaign
Case Owner
The Save Warren Farm Campaign is a group of over 1,000 Ealing residents who believe that this sports facility should remain, in its entirety, for schools and community use for future generations.
Funded
on 28th November 2016
£16,435
pledged of £35,000 stretch target from 323 pledges
Save Warren Farm Campaign
Case Owner
The Save Warren Farm Campaign is a group of over 1,000 Ealing residents who believe that this sports facility should remain, in its entirety, for schools and community use for future generations.

Latest: June 16, 2017

We're appealing the unfavourable Judicial Review decision!

The new page for our Appeal:
 https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/appeal-to-save-warren-farm/

Well, you will probably know that Mr Justice Dove heard the case at a Judicial Review hearing on 21 Fe...

Read more

STOP PUBLIC LAND BEING GIVEN AWAY TO BILLIONAIRES BY LOCAL AUTHORITY

KEY POINTS

Ealing Council is giving away over 60 acres of publicly-owned, community sports fields, designated as Metropolitan Open Land (which should be protected to the same level as Green Belt) on a 200 year lease, for no rental income at all.

They have agreed to give Warren Farm School Sports Centre away to QPR, an elite corporate Football Club, owned by billionaires, for the benefit of the shareholders.

The Save Warren Farm Campaign has launched a Judicial Review against the Council's approval of a second planning application and we need your help now.

  • Save Warren Farm Campaign wants the land to remain open to the community and would like to seek funding for its regeneration, and the site re-opened to the public and future generations of Ealing and London residents for the next 200 years
  • Target: £15,000 for preparatory work, letters before action, legal counsel and Court fees in association with Renewal Hearing
  • Stretch target: £35,000 for preparation, briefing, expert witness fees and attendance at Oral Hearing of Judicial Review
  • Warren Farm is an area of considerable local importance. It represents a unique example of London's biodiversity cherished by daily visitors. With investment from grant funding, Ealing Council could be providing their own sporting facilities here for generations to come, enhancing the natural environment that exists in harmony with the sports facilities on the site
  • Ealing Council has granted Queens Park Rangers Football Club planning permission, and a 200 year lease (at a peppercorn rent) to develop Warren Farm into their Academy and first team training ground as an exclusive corporate development. This will include a suite of private Offices, a press office, overnight VIP accommodation and parking for over 700 cars
  • The Council has agreed to dispose of the 61 acres of land in a lease spanning an unprecedented 200 years, in exchange for no annual rental income coming back to the borough
  • The Campaign's solicitor Rheian Davies of DH Law Limited said 'It is shocking that this public land has been given away so cheaply and with so little legal protection for the community.'
  • The current planning approval allows QPR to level the land by importing 180,000 cubic metres of unspecified landfill material through a ‘muck away’ scheme.  QPR, and not the Council (nor the community) would make around £4 million from this scheme
  • The general public does not accept that disposing of land worth conservatively £31 million to save the council £37,000 running costs per year, represents good asset management
  • We believe the land is being illegally given to a Limited company to re-finance their business, via the ability to re-mortgage the land, and reassign the lease with no further permissions required from the council. However, as all the meetings between the company and Ealing were held in secret, and were unminuted, it is hard to say exactly what is going on or why Ealing Council would want to allow this

This Crowdjustice page has been set up to raise the funds to mount the legal challenge to prevent the land from being lost to the community forever.  

Please donate now.

The Campaign seeks legal justice to protect access to public open land for future generations; we are fighting for all the adult, community and schools’ groups that will no longer be able to use Warren Farm School Sports Centre for large sporting events. We fight for those groups that have been displaced by Ealing Council’s decision to ignore their rights to 100% of the land in favour of gifting it away to 'Big Business'.

If this is allowed to go ahead unchallenged it will create a disturbing precedent throughout London and the UK, where Councils could dispose of public open space, in secret, unminuted discussions, to satisfy limited companies’ commercial needs,  displacing and excluding communities from their land.

Therefore, there is no other course of action than to make a stand against these decisions and take Ealing Council to Judicial Review.

WARREN FARM taken from Windmill Lane side of the 61 acres of Metropolitan Open Land.

ABOUT WARREN FARM

The land in question is Warren Farm School Sports Centre.  This is no longer a farm although there are horses living adjacent on both sides.  It has been a well-used public sports field that catered for an array of schools and club sports; horse riding; model air plane flying; informal leisure activities; large events;  inter school championships such as those run by APNA and the Tamil School Sports Association.  

Warren Farm, is daily a destination for  visitors, enjoying the adjacent Grand Union Canal, the impressive Hanwell Flight of Locks, the local pubs, and wandering across the lock into Jubilee Meadows and onto Warren Farm. Similarly from Windmill Lane, on the Norwood Green and Southall side of the site, many people access the land for recreation and relaxation, or even commute to work daily across the established footpaths on Warren Farm. It is open space where people simply enjoy nature and bird watching. 

Warren Farm currently supports nesting Little Owls, and recently, nationally protected Skylarks are nesting there.  The area is cherished and visited by 1000s of people each and every week, day in, day out.

Warren Farm is a rare piece of pristine Metropolitan Open Land. This Summer it has been filled with meadow flowers, and wildlife, and contains a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) along the Windmill Lane side - designated as such under Ealing Council's own policies.  This SINC would be entirely destroyed to make a service road in the new plans.


The open green site is bounded on both sides by two, peaceful residential villages and there are no shops or public transport facilities in the immediate adjacent area.

The 61 acres  Warren Farm site is situated on Windmill Lane, London on the borders of the London Borough's of Ealing and Hounslow, between Olde Hanwell and Norwood Green.

WARREN FARM SOON TO BE DESTROYED BY LANDFILL TO NET £4 MILLION TO CORPORATE TENANT QPR.

BACKGROUND

When properly maintained, Warren Farm has the best-drained pitches in the whole of West London, open for hire during very wet Winters, when all other pitches have been water logged and not playable. It was a sporting asset that was well loved, and well used, but in dire need of investment in the changing rooms and reception areas. 

The footprint of the run down changing facilities is compact, a group of functional facilities put up in the early 1960s on the footprint of the original farm buildings.  The sports ground has always been  open on both sides in line with its 'Community Open Space' status for open access to the communities living on both sides of it. 

However the changing rooms and facilities have been poorly maintained by successive Council administrations, and latterly appear to have been systematically run down in what seemed a deliberately attempt by the Council to craft an argument for its disposal. There were excuses made that there were no funds available, whilst at the same time the Council spent a surplus in their budget on building a car park in Southall, and investing in other sports facilities in the borough. 

Established clubs based at the facility were moved off Warren Farm with financial incentives to do so, along with a nursery school that served the local community and businesses.  These clubs, groups and businesses will no longer be able to use the grounds once the new tenant takes occupation. Considerable money has been spent on ensuring vacant possession, upon disposal of Warren Farm. Yet this, Ealing's largest sports ground, cost only £37,000 a year to maintain according to Council accounts.


Campaigners have a vision of an alternative future for Warren Farm, that is supported with the grant funding investment required to redevelop the changing rooms and reception area on a scale to support the site for community use rather than a major corporate business. They want to see it re-opened to the general public without increasing the existing development footprint, complementing the Metropolitan Open Land and the 'countryside' feel of the area.  A plan that protects the Site of Importance for Nature Conservation in its entirety, and keeps the land open to all, for generations to come.

“It’s harder and harder to experience landscapes that have a predominantly rural character within London.  That’s something that we think is vital to quality of life, and local campaigners believe it should be included in the plans to make London the first national park city to help make London a greener, healthier and fairer place to live. The benefits are clear. From children’s development to improved physical and mental health, active engagement with nature is key to a better quality of life for Londoners". [London National Park City]

Warren Farm is an area of considerable local importance. It represents a unique example of London's biodiversity cherished by daily visitors. With investment from grant funding, Ealing Council could be providing their own sporting facilities here for generations to come, enhancing the natural environment that exists in harmony with the sports facilities on the site.  Not destroying it with landfill to benefit a commercial company, blocking access to its residents. Campaigners aim to "conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area" and "promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of Warren Farm by the public.


 




QPR’S  CURRENT PLANS  FOR WARREN FARM

Ealing Council has granted Queens Park Rangers Football Club planning permission, and a 200 year lease (at a peppercorn rent) to develop Warren Farm  into their Academy and first team training ground as an exclusive corporate development. This will include a suite of private Offices, a press office, overnight VIP accommodation and parking for over 700 cars. The Council has agreed to dispose of the 61acres of land in a lease spanning an unprecedented 200 years, in exchange for no annual rental income coming back to the borough.

The Campaign's solicitor Rheian Davies of DH Law Limited said 'It is shocking that this public land has been given away so cheaply and with so little legal protection for the community.'


"The land has been disposed of for less than market value, as Ealing had the site valued as farm land. Whilst it is called a 'farm', the land has not been farmed for a considerable time (since the early 1960s, in fact).  In any event, we do not believe the valuation took into account the increase in value once planning application for a considerable corporate development, offices and overnight accommodation had been granted to it. The borough's valuers valued the 61 Acres at £1.2million, when indeed we believe that it is worth nearer £31million,  and more if you take into account the value with new corporate commercial buildings to come.

"Whilst QPR will be responsible for the upkeep of the small remaining community space, the community sees the loss of two thirds of the land to the private VIP Corporate buildings and pitches for the exclusive use of the Club, and a shocking 300% increase in the footprint of the existing buildings on Metropolitan Open Land. QPR will be providing access to a new poly tunnel style indoor sports hall when the Club is not using it it, and eight new changing rooms that the community will have access to.  

"But for how long community access and use will last is entirely unclear;  this so-called community space is not delineated in the lease, offering the opportunity for it to be removed at any time. Therefore there is no protection for on-going community use, and no guarantee there will be any dedicated community sports area in a few years time, let alone 200 years. 

"This is seen by Ealing Council, as a valid exchange for fencing off the land, eliminating free access, and destroying the land whilst the QPR retain the revenue of approx £4million from an eight month importation landfill scheme to cover the land.

"SAVE WARREN FARM believe it is entirely disingenuous to suggest that this is a good deal for Ealing for the next 200 years. Furthermore Ealing has failed to sufficiently demonstrate an argument for the 'special circumstances' required to allow building on Metropolitan Open Land, nor justified the considerable environmental damage to come.

"Furthermore campaigners are at a loss to understand why Ealing Council have taken it upon themselves to be responsible for providing,  or feel required to supply, 'free' land for corporate development by a Limited company, over the needs of residents.    Let alone grant planning permissions that then allows QPR to earn millions from that land, in a 'landfill" scheme that irrevocably destroys nature and open public access to the land.

  • The general public do not accept that disposing of land worth conservatively £31million to save the council £37,000 running costs per year, represents good asset management.
  • When you consider the pitch fees in the last year of operation amounted to £58,000 revenue, even with run down changing rooms, a small grant-funded investment in the current changing rooms would certainly see the site “wash its own face” whilst remaining open to the public in its entirety.

NEW TENANTS FINANCIAL  CREDIBILITY?  - RIGHT TO REMORTGAGE THE LAND AND RE-ASSIGN THE LEASE.

Queens Park Rangers Holdings Limited is a corporation owned by billionaires but as a Limited company, as has been widely covered in the media, the Club is currently profoundly in debt to the tune of approx £200million - and is awaiting a further fine of over £50million for breaking the Financial Fair Play rules that are designed to discourage rich owners from 'buying' success and endangering the financial health of their clubs.

According to a recent article in the Telegraph, this Limited company/new tenant is in deep financial trouble and is “technically” bankrupt, therefore the precarious nature of the company and their cavalier approach to fiscal control, within industry guidelines, should raise a red flag with Ealing Council. 

Campaigners are struggling to see how the QPR can represent an appropriate guardian of a 200 year lease for a public asset of such importance, nor why they are being afforded so much, with so little responsibility to the community, and no fail-safes in place to deliver on promises.

There are many who do not believe that, under these arrangements, there will be access for the community in 5 years' time, let alone 200, and if the company is already struggling to meet its debts having overspent in recent years, with aggregate losses of £156 million.  This debt rises to £218 million if exceptional debt write-offs of £62 million by the shareholders are taken into consideration. Financially this is a real tale of woe, that in the last two years has seen the company making total losses of £135 million in that period alone (excluding the fancy footwork in the accounts).

Local residents are greatly disturbed to know that despite these crippling financial problems, Ealing Council still feels it appropriate to grant QPR, the right to raise a mortgage against the land or create a charge against the value of the land and/or to use it as security against a debt by using publicly-owned land as collateral, without further permission from the Council.  

But most disturbing is QPR's right to re-assign the lease, which could take the land in its entirety out of public use, without the small pocket of land reserved under current plans for community use, being delineated or protected in the lease in perpetuity for generations to come  Should QPR Ltd go bankrupt, the small amount of so-called community space could be extinguished at any time, with the land being assigned to an unknown Third Party.

In any event QPR would make approx. £4million from the landfill scheme they currently have permission to execute on Warren Farm, even before the lease is granted.

Yet this is what is happening at Warren Farm School Sports Ground, and no doubt if this is allowed to go ahead - something similar could be happening near you tomorrow.

We believe the land is being illegally given to a Limited company to re-finance their business, via the ability to re-mortgage the land, and reassign the lease with no further permissions required from the council. However, as all the meetings between the company and Ealing were held in secret, and were unminuted, it is hard to say exactly what is going on or why Ealing Council would want to allow this.  Or why they would allow QPR to benefit from a ‘muck away’ scheme netting them, and not the Council, approx £4million from our land.

The local community fails to comprehend why Ealing Council would squander publicly-owned land to support a financially beleaguered Limited company that can re-assign it at will. They do not believe that QPR is a suitable guardian of the land, nor that they are in appropriate financial position to guarantee their role in the transaction. It raises the question, why is Ealing Council still considering this deal?

This has necessitated no other course of action but to issue a Judicial Review, on new grounds with a Barrister specialising in Planning and Environmental cases to fight the legality of Ealing Council's decision to grant planning permission for this development and its land fill scheme.

VIEW OF WARREN FARM FROM THE HANWELL SIDE OF THE SITE. SOON TO BE REPLACED  

WITH A 5m HIGH LANDFILL WALL. So Queens Park Rangers, may earn approx £4million from public land.  


THE MUCK AWAY ‘Landfill Importation Earthworks scheme’

As part of the second planning application that was presented to the community as 'minor additions', a new an controversial “Landfill” muck-away scheme is now proposed, where by Ealing Council has granted the tenant the right to accept 180,000 cubic metres of un-quantified "Landfill material", to level off the ground to suit the tenant's new aspirations with regard to their financial return on Warren Farm. 

The Landfill scheme would destroy the established wildlife and complex biodiversity on the previously open and untouched site. In real terms, this importation land fill scheme constitutes an eight month programme of importation of 180,000 cubic metres of unqualified landfill. This would be delivered by 150 HGV trucks a day, totalling 300 trips in and out of the site each day;  by our calculations, one truck every 4 minutes, thundering past residents, destroying property and polluting the environment.  This amounts to 750 truckloads per working week (1,500 truck movements in and out of the site);  an astonishing 3,000 truckloads,per month (6,000 truck movements), totalling an astounding 24,000 truckloads (48,000 truck movements in and out of the site), delivering the landfill alone, over the eight month period.

The purpose of the levelling off of ground, would be to make space for more football pitches to facilitate greater revenue for QPR.  Furthermore, this land fill importation scheme would also net the tenant approximately £4million pounds, retained in its entirety by QPR,  which would be paid by the contracting companies generating the waste to dump on the ground. 

This landfill site is unnecessary and could be entirely prevented. There is no public requirement, nor benefit to the public, that would necessitate the scheme, the disturbance to neighbouring communities, or the destruction of nature on this site. It is unwarranted and unacceptable when it is for the sole financial benefit of an elite football club owned by billionaires. 

Therefore we believe the decision to allow it must be legally challenged as a scheme that favours a corporation’s requirements over the needs of residents, wildlife, nature, and open public access.  And in any event, the scheme should not be allowed on publicly-owned Metropolitan Open Land.


LAND FILL WALL WILL  BLIGHT VIEWS AND EXCLUDE RESIDENTS. 

ARTIST'S IMPRESSION OF THE PROPOSED LANDFILL WALL RUNNING ALONGSIDE THE HANWELL SIDE OF WARREN FARM.


Furthermore the land fill material being brought onto the land, would then form a 5m high (15.6ft) wall at it highest point on the Hanwell side of the site, adjacent to the historic flight of locks (a nationally scheduled monument), and the St Mark's and Canal Conservation Area of Olde Hanwell, blocking out access for residents.


EXAMPLE: of a typical land fill importation scheme requiring dust suppressants


DUST SUPPRESSANT SPRAYING FOR 8 MONTHS.

The planning application outlines the necessity to spray the site with dust suppressants, in an attempt to inhibit detritus and dry fog from descending upon the neighbourhood.  Local residents, the infirm at nearby Ealing Hospital and Meadow House Hospice, adjacent food-producing allotments, the stables and vulnerable horses on the privately-owned  fields next door, the children attending St Mark's Primary School in Olde Hanwell, and students at ElthornePark High School are all geographically close to the site. This would also affect the many daily walkers using Jubilee Meadow/Blackberry Corner/Trumper's Field and the tow path by the canals below. Ealing Council does not believe that this scheme requires an independent Environmental Assessment, to fully assess the risk and impact the importation “Muck Away” schemes poses to people, wildlife,  horses and property close by.


We do not believe this to be a good deal for Ealing residents, and therefore we have no other course of action but to bring a Judicial Review to address the decision to grant planning permission.

OUR AIM

Save Warren Farm Campaign wants the land to remain open to the community and would like to seek funding for its regeneration, and the site re-opened to the public and future generations of Ealing and London residents for the next 200 years.

LEGAL ACTION

The Campaign's solicitor has sent a 'Letter Before Action', stating our intention to bring a claim in Judicial Review against Ealing’s decision to grant planning permission for this inappropriate development and subsequent disposal of a public asset for less than best consideration.

With your help we can do something about this

Thank you for your support. 


            




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Update 3

Save Warren Farm Campaign

June 16, 2017

We're appealing the unfavourable Judicial Review decision!

The new page for our Appeal:
 https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/appeal-to-save-warren-farm/

Well, you will probably know that Mr Justice Dove heard the case at a Judicial Review hearing on 21 February. 

Unfortunately he found against us in his decision dated 9 March 2017. However, our top legal team of Marc Willers QC and Richard Buxton Environmental and Public Law advises us that this is a case which deserves the attention of the Court of Appeal.

There are two important issues at stake with national implications for the future of Metropolitan Open Land (same as Green Belt) and the London Plan policy on which the future of Warren Farm depends. They believe that the case has a high prospect of success. But without a win in the Court of Appeal it is quite simply the end of the road and the Council and QPR are the winners and the community the losers.

Save Warren Farm Campaign needs your help again, in taking this clearly appealable case forward to the Court of Appeal! 

We need to raise a further £25,000.  Our initial target to release the funds is £10,000, and the stretch target is £25,000.

As an existing supporter, we would be very grateful indeed if you could pledge, again, to support the legal fees to save this land for the community and help to ensure that Metropolitan Open Land and Green Belt remain protected to the highest level nationally.

Full details about the status of the case are at the new web page.

Please share on Facebook and tweet to help us spread the word.

Thank you so much for your help.

Update 2

Save Warren Farm Campaign

Nov. 28, 2016

Funded

We hit our first target!
Update 1

Save Warren Farm Campaign

Nov. 22, 2016

High Court success in fight to save Ealing public land from QPR scheme

The High Court on 15 November granted leave for a Judicial Review of Ealing Council’s decision to allow QPR Football Club to redevelop Warren Farm School Sports Centre, in Southall. The scheme to use the Metropolitan Open Land (MOL – London’s Green Belt) for QPR’s new Training and Academy HQ would remove public access to the majority of the site.

Mr Justice Ouseley agreed with Marc Willers QC, acting on behalf of Save Warren Farm campaigners, that it is arguable the Council failed to take into account the other harms to the MOL when considering the 'very special circumstances’  necessary to justify the loss of open land for development.

"We were delighted that Mr Justice Ouseley agreed there is a case to answer as Ealing Council arguably had failed to apply the correct test when considering the harms to Metropolitan Open Land at Warren Farm,” said Richard Buxton, instructing solicitor, of Richard Buxton, specialists in environmental and public law.  “This case is highly significant because we are increasingly seeing Councils allowing encroachment on publicly held land to benefit commercial enterprise.”

Alice Roberts of Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) London said: “This is great news for the objectors who have pointed out these community sports fields are a public asset, 61 acres of green, open space in the midst of London’s suburbs, which  should continue to be available for public benefit.”

The latest stage in the four year fight to save Warren Farm from development is being supported by a crowdfunding appeal launched earlier this month: https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/save-warren-farm/

Malcolm Weller, of the Save Warren Farm Campaign [2], said: "We are so grateful to all those who are donating to save Warren Farm so the land can continue to be used for sporting activities by local people. We are relying on the continuing generosity of donors for the next big push to take our case to Judicial Review and protect our Metropolitan Open Land from this harmful and exclusive commercial development.”

The Judicial Review will be heard in the New Year, raising the possibility that the High Court could quash the planning permission in January.

This is what residents are fighting:

  • Ealing Council plans to lease 61 acres of publicly-owned community sports fields for 200 years at no rent to a privately owned company
  • The Council has granted planning permission to QPR football club, owned by billionaires, to build a Training and Academy facility on the site for the benefit of their own shareholders
  • Current plans increase the built footprint on this Metropolitan Open Land (London’s Green Belt) by over 300%, and wipe out a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation
  • QPR would level the land with 180,000 cubic metres of landfill through a ‘muck away’ scheme.  This amounts to 150 trucks per day thundering through narrow roads, to and from the site, five days a week, for eight months.  QPR would make around £4 million from this scheme

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