Clerkenwell ball court will stay open later to ease tensions between bike polo team and Islington children

Islington Town Hall (Photo: Islington Council)

A ball court with floodlights in Clerkenwell is set to stay open an extra hour to ease tensions between a bike polo team and local children.

The space on Dover Court Estate near St John Street had closed at 8pm, causing “conflict” and “disputes” between children playing until 7pm and the London Hardcourt Bike Polo Association, which says it needs two hours on the court.

Last night (19 March) Islington Council’s planning committee approved changing its rules to allow the court to stay open until 9pm, despite opposition from residents about noise and anti-social behaviour.

However, a council spokesperson said the change was apporoved with conditions to soften the impact on residents, and that these would be published online in the next week.

Two petitions were submitted to a public consultation on the plans held in November and December 2017 – one supporting the change and one against it.

The bike polo team’s petition, which received 43 signatures, said the team has used the ball court once a week for nine years, and a revamp in 2016 included “bike polo-specific features”.

It said: “Closing the court at 8pm instead of at 9pm reduces the amount of time available for everyone to use the ball court and has led to disputes.

“The local children generally use the court until 7pm. Since a two hour slot is needed to play the LHBPA is effectively unable to use the court with the 8pm closing time.

“There have been no problems at the court except for those which have been caused by the earlier closing time which is resulting in some level of conflict between the LHBPA and the local children.”

A second petition from residents, which received 31 signatures, accused the council of bringing back a closing time which was dropped from the original plans in 2015.

It said: “Council officers should not be trying to overturn the planning conditions that were required by councillors at the planning committee in January 2015 and revert to their original plans – thus ignoring the concerns of the residents expressed clearly at the time, and the decision of the councillors.”

These included “concerns about noise, anti-social behaviour and light pollution” from the floodlights, and led to a condition that the ball court be locked and the lights turned off by 8pm.

The petition said since the ball court opened in January 2017 there has been “significant” noise and some anti-social behaviour, especially in the spring and summer, with residents having “complained multiple times”.

It added: “Residents’ original concerns still stand – 9pm is too late for this facility to be open.

“The noise bounces off the surrounding buildings and is intrusive in people’s homes, requiring residents to close windows even in the height of summer and making sleep difficult.

“Extending the opening hours will be detrimental to the peace and wellbeing of residents living near the ball court, including those due to move in to the new block for elderly residents which is currently being built right next to the ball court.”

However, council officers recommended that the committee grant permission to extend the opening hours of the ball court.

Their report said: “Since opening the new ball court, there have been reports of tension developing between the long term court users and residents due to the reduced operational hours of the floodlights.

“It is considered that if the additional opening hour is permitted this would enable the court to be used without conflict.

“However, while the additional operational hour may to some degree resolve conflicts with the court users, it would also give rise to concerns from neighbouring occupiers in terms of noise and disturbance.”

But the report concludes that since the ball court is in a “larger amenity area” which is always open, “it is not considered that an increase in opening hours would result in a significant difference to the use of the wider area overall nor unacceptable noise nuisance impacts”.

It says any anti-social behaviour can be reported to the council’s anti-social behaviour team, adding: “Given the above, while disturbance to neighbouring occupiers is noted, the wider public benefit of increased sport and recreation facility access is considered to outweigh that harm.”