Wembley Campaigners Fighting For Sports Access

Council bailiffs wrap anti-academy protester HANK ROBERTS (who had D-locked himself on the roof) in a cover before using an angle grinder to release and evict him last Friday morning
Council bailiffs wrap anti-academy protester HANK ROBERTS (who had D-locked himself on the roof) in a cover before using an angle grinder to release and evict him last Friday morning

The fight to save local children’s access to a sports ground in the shadow of Wembley Stadium continued this week as protesters reoccupied the site for the third time in a just over a year.

Campaigners reoccupied the site in the early hours of Sunday morning, living in tents.

However, the action provoked Brent Council into issuing all local businesses on the site, including a children’s nursery, with an immediate eviction order to leave by Wednesday, July 30 2008.

Sunflower Children’s Nursery, a church group, and four businesses are being evicted with haste despite recent offers by council officials to extend their lease until the end of August, as Brent Council push to begin the construction of temporary accommodation for the first 60 pupils in the new Wembley School Academy.

Brent Council approved the planning application on June 3rd for an initial ‘pre-academy’ for 60 reception children starting this September and growing to 300 primary and secondary pupils as a forerunner for the proposed Wembley Academy school to be run by ARK.

So far, Brent Council have not indicated whether their initial agreement to retain local access to the sports ground and facilities in the Sports Hall will also now cease.

The sports ground, in the shadow of the arch of the new Wembley stadium, has been used by local schools and residents for decades; local schools in the area do not have their own playing fields.

It is used by over a hundred different youngsters and teenagers from the local area each week some of whom come from the local Chalkhill estate, who pay as little as £1 per training session.

At one of the entrances to the recreation ground where work was to begin this week, barricades have gone up, blocking the only entrance available for construction vehicles to enter the site.

The construction of temporary accommodation or the refurbishment of the dilapidated sports hall was expected to begin this week.

The campaigners, Grass Roots Alliance for Social Sports, are occupying the site to raise the issue of the threat to local children’s access to the recreation ground.

For the next academic year, 60 pupils will either be housed in portacabins on one of the sports fields or in the sports hall, a leaking building that needs some serious restoration work.

Both options, to be fully funded by the local taxpayer and not by Ark, the private investor in the Wembley Academy school, have been criticised by local MP Barry Gardiner.

Even if the building is refurbished, it will then have to be subsequently knocked down for the new academy school proposed for the site.

Meanwhile, evidence has emerged that neighbouring primary schools have not filled their places for reception classes in September whilst the council has actively encouraged parents to change their school selection preferences in favour of the new academy school.

Just two schools’ shortfall (Wembley Primary and Preston Park – both very near the proposed school) nearly make up the 60 places to be offered in the temporary academy buildings proposed to open in September.

Wembley Recreation Ground was occupied last summer for several months by groups of teachers opposed to the building of the proposed school academy part of the site.

On the June 30 it was reoccupied; an eviction notice was promptly served, leading to Brent NUT Secretary Hank Roberts having to be removed from the roof of the sports hall on the early morning of Friday, July 18 having courageously taken a stand against Brent Council.

The Wembley Ark Academy is an American and British educational charity sponsored and run by a group of millionaire merchant bankers and currency speculators, led by Franco-Swiss multimillionaire Arpad Busson.

Arpad ‘Arki’ Busson is senior partner of EIM fund management company (with assets reported as ranging from £5 billion to £10 billion).

The Ark Academy is estimated to cost around £30 million of public money yet would be privately run.

The taxpayer puts up virtually all of the initial capital cost.

The UK school academy scheme itself is largely financed the UK taxpayer, which the private investors are then able to make a profit from.

Sponsors receive the entire school budget directly from the government.

Ark is set to run 12 Academy schools throughout the UK, six of which will be opened by September 2008.

One reason the Wembley Academy opening date was moved forward from September 2009 to 2008 was because local opposition against the Academy has been so massive in Brent, Ark thought that advancing the school start date would crush the resistance.

Last year, teachers protesting against the academy occupied the site for six months.

The site was vacated when the protesters secured a year’s extension for all leaseholders on the site.

However, Brent Council issued eviction notices, as was their right in accordance with the terms of the agreement of their ‘Tenancy-at-Will’ leasehold agreement, to all businesses on the site to leave by 31st July.

This high handed threat was issued after the council had promised in writing to help with ensuring all businesses would be relocated, including the Sunflower nursery children.

No assistance was subsequently offered.