Enfield Council could face legal action over Whitewebbs Park lease

Campaigners claim plan to lease park to Tottenham Hotspur is unlawful, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

The council’s plans to lease parts of Whitewebbs Park to Tottenham Hotspur have sparked a backlash

Enfield Council could face legal action over its proposals to lease Whitewebbs Park to Tottenham Hotspur.

Campaigners are seeking a judicial review of the authority’s plan to award the lease to the Premier League football club, which wants to set up a new women’s football academy on the site in northern Enfield.

So far, they have raised more than £15,000 of the initial £18,000 target to allow them to launch the first stage of the legal challenge.

The council agreed in October 2021 to hand a 25-year lease to Spurs if its proposals for the Green Belt parkland – including the now-closed municipal golf course – win planning permission.

It sparked a backlash from local residents who want the whole park to remain as public open space, but the council has repeatedly resisted calls to drop the plans.

Under the proposals, Spurs would create new training pitches in the north-eastern corner of the site next to its existing training complex in Whitewebbs Lane. Land to the south of this, including parts of the former golf course, would also be handed to the football club, where it plans to restore “areas of historic parkland”.

Local groups Enfield RoadWatch and the Friends of Whitewebbs, together with the London branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, claim the plans are unlawful because the land is held for the public for recreational use.

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The campaigners say the proposals would hand more than half of the park to the football club, ending “nearly 100 years of the park being public trust land”.

The groups obtained a legal opinion from barristers regarding the lawfulness of the council’s actions last year. In a subsequent letter to the authority, they claimed proposed restrictions on public use and access “inherent” in Spurs’ training academy plans would go against legislation under which the land is held in trust for the public’s use.

According to the campaigners, the club’s proposals would not be for “recreational” or “public use”, as trainees would be “screened and selected according to a rigorous process”. Restrictions on access mean it was “irrational for the council to conclude that the bid met its criteria to ‘maintain or enhance public access’”, they add.

Their letter states that the council’s plans to use rental income from the site to invest an extra £100,000 per year in grassroots sport would be an “unlawful use of profits from public trust land”, as the money would be spent outside the park.

Sean Wilkinson, chair of the Friends of Whitewebbs, said: “I am absolutely delighted with the response, and we are widening the campaign over the next two-to-three weeks so that everybody is involved in it.”

Enfield Council and Tottenham Hotspur FC declined to comment.

The campaigners’ crowdfunding page is available here:

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