Eric Leach

Independent Candidate Councillor
for Ealing Walpole Ward

Lammas Park Gate photo
Eric Leach photo
Ealing Skyline from Walpole Park photo

Lammas Park

Lammas Park opened as a public park in 1881. My boys ran around and played in this park for years in the 1980s. Its continued existence should be the key goal for the park. In 2009, the Council’s Parks Department’s stupidity in creating a new and dangerous gate into the park on Culmington Road was only compounded by their spending more money attempting to make the gate safe. In the end, after alot of pressure from Kingsdown Residents Association (KRA), the original 80 year old gate into the park at the northern end of Elers Road was re-opened. I’m supportive of Will to Win’s take over and renovation of the old tennis courts in Walpole and Lammas Park. I must reveal an interest here as Will to Win’s owner Steve Riley is an old friend from Blackpool.

Lammas Park - Battleground for the 'Use' of Open Space  new! 

Will to Win is building a Five-a-Side football pitch on Lammas Park abutting Culmington Road. Although the company has planning permission to do this some residents are upset at what they see as loss of open land. I emailed many interested parties on the facts and my observations of the issues are here:

Dear all,

As I'm mentioned 'in dispatches'; been involved in tennis for over 50 years; been WEN Vice-Chair for three years; lived in West Ealing for over 30 years; and aspire to be a Walpole Ward Councillor - here's my four pennies worth.

Irving - you are right to be concerned about loss of open space. But we all have a responsibilty to see that open space is used appropriately. Many now believe that oil is running out in the world and that energy, transport and manufactured goods will get much more expensive in our life times. It will be unecononmic to transport food around the place and there will be pressure in Ealing to grow vegetables in our open spaces - a bit like what happened in WWII.

Councils throughout the UK have almost universally neglected/poorly maintained hundreds of public tennis courts over many decades - either by design or by shear incompetence. I learned to play tennis on Hopwood Recreation Ground tennis courts in north Manchester in the 1950s. These two courts finally disappeared some 10 years ago and the land became a basketball court.

Our government - unlike countries like France and Sweden - does not have a policy of funding, building and managing sports centres in all major towns and cities. So, although I deplore the loss of public land, at least active sport is being effected and managed on this land whereas before it was just desolate.

Whatever you think of Steve Riley's /Will to Win's business model (and his prices) his seven pay-and-play facilities in London, which have rescued over 50 decaying public tennis courts, is probably doing more to preserve the sport of lawn tennis in the UK than many private members' tennis clubs. Remember that at the 14 LTA Affiliated clubs in Ealing in order to play on all of their 117 courts you have to become a member and pay a years' subscription in advance. I don't think that £6/hour at Will to Win is exorbitant. Each court cost £30,000 to build.

I've known Steve for over 15 years. He used to play at my club - Ealing Lawn Tennis Club. He spent years negotiating with Ealing Council to take over the decaying courts in Lammas Park. Without his northern fortitude he would have abandoned efforts here in Ealing years ago and concentrated on other decaying public courts in other London boroughs. But he persevered and won a deal which - of course - Ealing Council publicised badly, if at all.

The facility he has built to the east of Culmington Road is in my opinion an excellent tennis facility. The new courts to the west of Culmington Road were something of a surprise to me, but as they were rebuilt versions of what was already there it didn't pose problem to me. What I heard last year was that Steve was planning to put an inflated dome over three tennis courts. This never materialized and it was only a few weeks ago that it filtered through to me that on the west side of the road he was building a five-a-side football facility.

Sports facilities for young people are very thin on the ground throughout Ealing - and especially in the central Ealing area. Even worse, no sports facilities are even planned for the 4.4 acres Dickens Yard site or the 11.5 acres Green Man Lane Estate site.

I'm sure the Will to Win football facility will attract lots of boys and girls.

As regards Mark's comments about how the LTA has 'invested' the £350+ million it has received from the Wimbledon Championships over the last 15 years all I can do is but generally agree with him. Any national sports organization should be pre-occupied with the survival of its sport. I've lobbied hard over the last 20 years for the LTA's annual Wimbledon windfall to be spent on Parks tennis, schools and helping existing clubs survive. It should not be spent on trying to create multi-millionaires like Henman and Murray.

Will to Win (and the like) is the nearest thing we've got in London to 'Parks' tennis so I don't have a problem if national sporting bodies or government agencies support it.

You can't really blame Steve Riley for public roads' parking provision or lack of Council publicity.

Re. Mark's 'Tennis cannot be sustaining the Will To Win venture'. Far be it from me to defend Steve's business but it only opened 20 months ago and the final tennis courts were only completed in the last few months.

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