Reinstate full access to the Harpsden playing field for local residents

This petition made change with 152 supporters!

Please sign this petition to urge Richard Wilson, Chairman of the John Hodges Trust For Harpsden Hall, to live up to the Trust’s primary duty and reinstate the use of Harpsden playing field for the local inhabitants.

The playing field in Harpsden, at the bottom of Drawback Hill, which has been used by local residents and sports clubs alike for decades, has now become closed to local residents because the Trust has given exclusive access to AFC Henley. Local inhabitants have now been locked out from September to April, except for the small areas outside of the marked up football pitch. A tiny strip.

And yet, one of the Trust’s primary duties is  “the provision and maintenance of playing fields for use by the inhabitants”. The Trust Chairman, Richard Wilson, says that giving AFC exclusive rights of access satisfies this duty –  we disagree.

Many of you will have played on this field with your children and/or as children. You may have used, and continue to use this field for many recreational purposes. All that has now been officially stopped. The signs are about to go up around the field telling you to “KEEP OFF THE PITCH”. AFC’s Chairman, Trevor Howell, has already been patrolling the field, ejecting local residents.

AFC themselves have two main sites – one by Tesco and now, as tenants, our Harpsden playing field – a field which is and has always been intended, by the terms of the Trust, for the use of inhabitants of Harpsden and surrounding areas. They are both locked up and unavailable for general recreation, exercise and fun outside of the AFC training and match fixtures. You can help to change this by supporting the call to reinstate free access to the whole Harpsden playing field for the whole year.

The teams AFC use the field for are the U16 and U18 boys. This is a very narrow group of people – you have to be a boy, you have to be 16-18 years old and you have to be an AFC Henley player. Hardly representative of the makeup of the local population, their gender and interests.

There is no objection to AFC or any other club using the field, but not exclusively.

The field has been used by the local inhabitants for informal recreation together with sporting clubs for many, many years, all throughout the year. No club has ever exercised exclusive rights – they have been happy to share as have the residents of the local area to have clubs use the field. Nobody even thought about it being any other way.

Did Richard Wilson, Chairman of the Trust ask the local inhabitants if it was OK to rent the field out under such exclusive conditions?  No! He, as Chairman, is therefore failing in his primary duty because the Trust is only permitted to rent out the playing field if it is not used by local inhabitants. Well, we do use it and want to continue to do so – the whole field – the whole year through.

Please sign our petition. Act now to reinstate full access, or lose it.

Map courtesy of Google


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