Yardley Residents Action Group, which represents residents in the Birmingham district of Yardley and the wider community, is hoping to save two football pitches from being built on by appealing to professional clubs to buy the land.
The Barrows Lane playing fields and social club in Yardley, where Midland football stars Craig Gardner and Darren Carter first played the game, are facing a resubmitted planning application by their owner the Co-op for new homes.
The Action Group, which succeeded in having the first application thrown out by Birmingham’s planning committee after 1,000 local people signed a petition, say that Barrows Lane is now the only local green space where their children can play safely outdoors and is pleading to clubs to buy the site.
Action Group representative Fay Goodman said: “It is a tragedy that excellent football pitches such as those in Barrows Lane are being sold off for housing when we should be encouraging children to get outside and play sport.
“Many professional footballers owe their success to grassroots football, which will be denied to future children if we do not protect pitches and green land today. That is why we are appealing to clubs to buy the Barrows Lane playing fields.
“An estimated 10,000 school playing fields were sold off between 1979 and 1997 nationally, and now green spaces in cities are being targeted for housing development. If this process continues unabated, the future for our children will be a bleak concrete landscape.
Fay added: “Many children are also suffering from health issues such as obesity and asthma through lack of exercise and lack of sporting opportunities, especially in Birmingham. High population density in diminishing green areas also results in greater vehicle pollution which further compounds the risk of diseases and ill health amongst vulnerable young children.”
Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, who is supporting the campaign to protect the football pitches, said: “I spoke to a former Co-op employee who had to pay a dividend every week out of her wages towards the building of the social club at Barrows Lane. When told that the social club may be knocked down, she said: “Well nobody has asked me! I think I own it, I paid for it!”
Coun Neil Eustace (Lib Dem Stechford and Yardley North) said: “Many football clubs have tried to rent these grounds and have been refused by the Co-op. They want to pay rent, look after it, cut the grass, maintain the social club and use the ground for its original purpose of sport. It is so sad that this land may go, so I sincerely hope we win the fight.”
Coun Basharat Dad (Lab Stechford and Yardley North) said: “I have been approached by hundreds of residents with concerns about the lack of green spaces for young people to carry out activities such as football.
“Concerns also centre on how we can cater for the additional traffic, children’s places at school, and so on, if this development goes ahead. Sport has played a major part of my life and I have seen the positive impact it has on so many young people with anti-social behaviour and crime problems. We need to invest in this land for the future of our children.”
Fay Goodman added: “It is ironic that the Cadbury-Barrow family in the 1920s donated money to build the first open-air school in the grounds of Uffculme, their family home in Moseley, which later became a health and conference centre. This was because his son Paul survived tuberculosis thanks to an outdoor life in the Lickey Hills. The paradox lies in this precious gift of land – apparently given to the Co-op by the Barrows family who owned most of Yardley until the 1920s – will be turned into a profit making exercise.
“To expose the seriousness of this situation, not just locally but nationally, we are making a documentary. Some of the interviews with local residents, MP and Councillors are being posted on a regular basis and can be found on:
Any football clubs wishing to explore the land buying proposal should email Fay Goodman at email@example.com