Fitzrovia News has received scathing criticism accusing us of inaccurate and negative reporting on a news story about the opening of a new 5-a-side football pitch at Whitfield Place in January.

Astro Turf pitch.
Fitzrovia News has been accused of inaccurate reporting and “having nothing positive to say” in our report on the opening of a new astro-turf football pitch at Whitfield Place.

We reported that Fitzrovia Youth in Action had taken over management of the pitch at The Warren playground in agreement with Camden Council. We stated that some community groups had complained that football was being favoured over other sports and that the new pitch surface would increase disturbance to neighbouring residents.

In the report we wrote that the new management plans had the support of local residents living around the pitch.

But since our story was published Rehan Hollingsworth who lives at Suffolk House in Whitfield Place got in touch with Fitzrovia News to say the story was inaccurate.

“To say that local residents are happy with the management of the football pitch is completely untrue,” says Hollingsworth. “People living in Suffolk House suffer noise from the football games and Fitzrovia Youth in Action has refused to listen to our concerns. We were never consulted about the proposed management of the football pitch but only received a leaflet after the plans were announced.”

He also says that complaints to Camden Council have not been taken seriously and nothing has been done to address residents concerns.

Planning permission was given for housing at Suffolk House several years ago as part of an agreement with property developer Derwent London. Ahead of the decision community groups had raised concerns about possible conflict with the new residential and the existing football pitch.

Then a consultation for the redevelopment of the open space took place during 2014. But, says Hollingsworth, residents who are directly affected by the football pitch were never consulted as they moved in after the consultation was completed but before the redevelopment took place.

Suffolk House, which opened in 2015, contains 13 affordable homes and some of the rooms are less than six metres from the railings of the pitch.

“The worst thing is the noise from the ball being kicked against the railings,” says Hollingsworth who lives near the top of the building and says he is also concerned for the other residents who suffer more disturbance than he does because most of them live closer to the playing area.

In a response to Fitzrovia News Fitzrovia Youth in Action also criticised our reporting of the issue.

“It is very disappointing that Fitzrovia News has nothing good to say about the positive changes which have been brought about through the new management arrangements for The Warren pitch,” says Andre Schott, director of FYA.

“We appreciate that there might be some conflicting interests but our community newspaper has failed to give any voice to the vast majority of residents living opposite the pitch, including many long term residents as well as more recent residents in Suffolk House, who will testify how things have improved for the better because of FYA’s work.

“Football has been played in the Warren ever since the pitch was opened, long before residents moved into Suffolk House, and this has always caused some noise. FYA has put a huge amount of resource into looking after The Warren as part of the new management arrangements.

“We are currently fundraising for sound reduction works to be carried out on the fencing which will hopefully take place over the next month or so. Our staff visit the site numerous times every day — not just the pitch but the garden and playground as well — engaging with young people and other users, picking up litter, asking people to stop drinking and smoking in the playground and to respect the facility. Children and young people are now rarely being driven off the pitch by adult users and the playground and pitch are much cleaner, much greener and better looked after than ever before.

“We would like to invite Fitzrovia News to the community picnic our members will be organising on the pitch on Saturday 4 June so that its reporters can speak to residents living opposite and present a more balanced understanding of their experiences,” he said.

Anne Shewring, chair of FYA, also took issue with our reporting:

“As a Fitzrovia resident, I am proud of what we do for this community, both in terms of how we manage the Warren pitch but also thinking about the other things FYA does to bring the community together,” she said.

“Warren Street looks great after our planting day a few weeks ago, as does the Warren playground. We are one of the few community organisations working to bring the community together socially, for example through our street party and our community picnic. There are always competing points of view — I do understand that and we have, and will continue to listen to residents — but, as Andre says, it would be good if Fitzrovia News could focus on some of these good things.”

Councillor Abdul Hai, cabinet member for customers, communities and culture at Camden Council told Fitzrovia News:

“The Warren play area and ball court was improved in 2014. We regularly liaise with Fitzrovia Youth in Action (FYA) to minimise any impacts of the court where possible.

“Due to its central London location, the ball court is an important physical activity opportunity for local communities, with few other public spaces nearby. The management agreement with FYA supports Camden priorities such as working in partnership with communities to deliver services and improving health and wellbeing. The bespoke and targeted sports and community development programmes for young people offered by FYA is something the Council could not deliver directly itself at The Warren. Their provision of leagues will also hopefully boost physical activity participation levels locally.”

Camden Council stated that any residents who feel that there is excessive noise should contact the council on 0207 974 4444.

Pete Whyatt, news editor, said: “Fitzrovia News does its best to present the facts, provide context, and to give a balanced view on issues affecting members of the community. We hope by reporting these criticisms we fulfil this role and keep people properly informed.”