User menu

Footballers seek judicial review over loss of indoor 5-a-side pitches

Amateur footballers have issued a threat of judicial review against the London Borough of Islington over its plan to relocate indoor pitches at the Sobell leisure centre and replace them with trampolines.
The football teams say they have used the centre for decades and should have been consulted over the relocation, which they say would be unsatisfactory for their needs.
But lawyers for the council have said no consultation was needed and the footballers will suffer no detriment.
In a letter before action, law firm Freeths told the council: “Despite however everything that has been said about the significant impact and damage this trampoline proposal is likely to cause, the council and [Sobell management firm] GLL are seemingly intent on proceeding without conducting a proper, meaningful, public consultation.”
Freeths said the football players were seeking judicial review on the grounds that they had a legitimate expectation of consultation.
Its pre-action letter cited various minutes and correspondence and said: “The council distinctly promised to consult those affected or potentially affected, and it has failed in its duty to do so.”
There is also a challenge under Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 on the grounds that a resident impact assessment of the trampoline proposal appeared to have been undertaken after the decision was made to proceed with the conversion of the pitches.
It also made no reference to “the impact on the predominantly middle-aged and more elderly indoor 5-a-side footballers who are being `displaced’”.
Freeths said the footballers were open to mediation but if the council went ahead with substantive building works “our instructions are to issue an injunction against the council prohibiting the commencement of any work until a lawful public consultation has taken place”.
Law firm Sharpe Pritchard, acting for the council, replied: “Just because your client is unhappy about the development at the centre it does not mean it is open for a judicial review.”
It said that Islington was not under any obligation to consult the public on the principle of a trampoline park and “your client could not have a legitimate expectation to such a consultation” as the football activity was being relocated, not closed.
Islington rejected the allegation of age discrimination since football pitches would be provided elsewhere and the game was anyway “not solely preserved for middle aged or elderly persons”.
The council's executive member for health and well-being, Janet Burgess, said: “The trampoline park will increase sporting activity among young people and particularly teenage girls. It is estimated that twice as many people will use the space when the trampoline park is in place.
“Also, at a time of huge ongoing government cuts to council budgets, income from the trampoline park will help the council to continue to deliver front-line services to its residents.
“Meanwhile we are pleased to be able to offer the footballers an alternative venue nearby so they can continue to play indoors – or use Sobell's outdoor pitches.”
Mark Smulian