St John’s Wood academy blows whistle on sports club for kids – as activities are banned on Sundays

Rising Stars coaching sessions have now been stopped. Picture: Eliot Tang

Rising Stars coaching sessions have now been stopped. Picture: Eliot Tang - Credit: Archant

Children were distraught after being told their football sessions were being cancelled because the state-of-the-art facilities at a St John’s Wood academy cannot be used on a Sunday.

The Harris Academy in Finchley Road told coaches from Rising Stars Activities they could no longer use the new 4G pitch or indoor sports hall due to a planning agreement.

Neighbours first complained about the possibility of hearing children playing sports on a Sunday five years ago while the academy was going through Westminster City Council's planning process. In response, the council imposed conditions enforcing a day of rest at the facilities each Sunday.

Ironically, planning documents had also included a vow to "maximise the community facilities provided to the benefit of the whole community".

Eliot Tang, co-founder of Rising Stars, ran football coaching sessions on the outdoor pitch from 10am to 11.30am and birthday parties in the sports hall in the afternoons.

But they have now been told to move elsewhere, and after a temporary stint at The American School nearby, have had to end their programme altogether.

"We got a letter saying local residents had complained," said Eliot. "OK, it's 90 minutes on a Sunday morning and there's a few whistles from 10am to 11.30am, but then the birthday parties are indoors until 5pm. We've been building our club to keep kids active, making them fitter and stronger, which is what everyone in society is trying to do. I think it's disgraceful."

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Last week Eliot broke the news to parents and kids.

"They are distraught," he said. "Their children were able to play football in a safe environment where they are learning and developing. I don't think people should take that away. They all live in the area too, and don't know why people have complained.

"There's a real lack of facilities in London and particularly in the St John's Ward and Belsize Park area."

The school's new executive head Nick Soar said the decision was "a legal prohibition by statute rather than the school making any decision that might be construed as detrimental".

"At all times as a school we work to provide innovative and creative activities for local children," he said. "In this way we transform their life chances."