A LOCAL resident of New Eltham has hit out at the GAA for overlooking the opportunity to bring Gaelic games back to South East London.
London GAA’s former pitch in New Eltham, which has been lying derelict since 1992, is set to be turned into 136 new homes following the recent result of a long legal battle.
Planning Inspector Brian Sims overturned Greenwich Council’s decision to reject planning permission, which was initially submitted at the end of 2014, paving the way for Irish-backed company Novalong to progress with plans to build on the premises.
Back in 2001, Novalong paid the GAA – the freeholder of the property – £500,000 for the option to develop the grounds, with the proviso of another £5.5million if planning permission was ever granted.
And now that permission has become a reality, local resident Malcolm Bond, chairman of Raged Residents – a group of campaigners who had been voicing their support for the site to be restored for recreational use throughout the whole affair – believes the GAA have missed out on further growth of their games.
“I believe that the GAA would have benefitted if it had gone against the development because in the long run they could have brought Irish Gaelic games back to the site,” he told The Irish Post.
“But unfortunately they limited themselves by accepting payment for control over the the property. As a result, the sport has all but disappeared down this end, which is a shame, because if they were to expand the sport back into this area it would help them.
“But that's all just history now. We don't believe Greenwich Council will fight the decision to overturn, and they're probably the only people who could. I don't think the Secretary of State would step in at this stage.
“I've been working on this for 26 years. If I was to sum up the amount of my life that I've been fighting this, it would be a very large percentage. I would probably have had a very different life had the GAA continued to play at New Eltham as they were doing when I came here.
“Even if they had have allowed it to be open to other sports as well, but then I'm aware that that goes against their policies.”
The planning application that was finally approved is thought to have been the 15th made on the site going back as far as 1968, with the GAA likely to benefit financially from the development.