Despite opposition from Dominello and the council, the spokesman said the project was backed by members of the RSL and rugby clubs. “There exists significant support in the Ryde [local government area] for what is proposed and for the delivery of a new one-hectare public park.”
The spokesman also said the amount of open space per resident in Marsfield exceeded the rest of the Ryde council area and NSW government guidelines.
The rugby fields no longer served the Marsfield community, especially new residents from China, India, Korea and the Philippines “where rugby is not popular”, he said.
The viability of keeping the rugby fields had also been affected by previous council decisions rejecting lighting upgrades and imposing parking restrictions, he said.
“Despite the best efforts over many years of Eastwood Rugby and North Ryde RSL to keep TG Millner Field alive, the fields are unused and not relevant to the local community.”
The row over the future of the TG Millner Field follows a controversial deal by Lane Cove Council to allow the construction of senior housing on sporting fields in Lane Cove.
Dominello said public open space in Sydney was precious “and once it’s gone it’s gone forever”.
“That’s why we must fight to save TG Millner Field for future generations,” he said. “If proponents of the plan don’t think rugby is popular any more, then we should work together to accommodate other sports.”
The TG Millner Field is the home ground for the Ryde-Eastwood Hawks rugby league club – although it only uses the ground on Sundays.
Football operations manager Michael Frain said the club could use the facility six days a week for 10 months a year if permitted.
Frain also said the club will not have a ground to play in the area if the project goes ahead. “There is not one rugby league field in Ryde [local government area] at present for training or playing, so there is an obvious need to keep green space.”
The planning proposal is currently being assessed by council officers, but 12 out of 13 Ryde councilors in June voted to oppose any plans to reduce green space in Ryde.
The councilors also voted in favor of a motion to secure the TG Millner Field, described as an “iconic local landmark”, as open space in perpetuity.
Ryde’s Major Liberal Jordan Lane said the Ryde area needed grounds for all sporting codes. “TG Millner is a premier field, worthy of preservation.”
Lane said there was “no doubt traffic and other social pressures will be exacerbated by the concurrent eroding of open space, and development of new dwellings”.
The Ryde area needed 13 additional sports ovals by 2036 to keep up with demand and population growth, he said. “Decimating one of our largest existing open spaces will set this cause back significantly.”
Lane said it was “absurd” to suggest any part of Ryde had sufficient open space.
“Were the fields to be made available to the public, council could also help address the oversubscription of requests for its current sporting fields,” he said.