Thu, 20 Feb 2020
A NEW playing pitch strategy unveiled by West Berkshire Council has revealed that there is a significant deficit in football provision across the district.
The West Berkshire Playing Pitch Strategy (PPS) – a document developed to guide the investment, development and improvement of playing pitches over the next 10 years – indicates that “there is a large deficit” of secure and accessible football pitch provision.
This is due to “the very low level of football provision across the area that is secured for long-term community use”, primarily due to a lack of agreement between schools – where 42 per cent of football sites are located – and clubs who wish to use them.
The document goes on to state that there’s a deficit of seven full-sized 3G artificial grass pitches, with only one full-sized 3G pitch available to the community – at Park House School.
The strategy – which was approved at West Berkshire Council’s executive committee meeting last Thursday – also covers hockey, cricket and rugby.
While hockey and cricket are well provided for, there is also an “undersupply of available and secured grass pitches” for rugby.
Executive member for public health and community wellbeing Rick Jones said: “The deficit refers to the lack of secure community use, rather than the number of pitches.
“It isn’t just down to the council – we have to negotiate with the schools and clubs to see if we can get more secure provision.
“The deficit for 3G pitches is true. We don’t have enough in the district and we’ve been waiting for the publication of the PPS in order to work with schools and clubs to gain better access to some pitches.”
The Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) last year applied for planning permission to redevelop the council-owned Faraday Road football ground with two artificial, all-weather playing pitches.
The council, meanwhile, currently plans to demolish the site and build flats in its place.
On the lack of rugby provision, Mr Jones stated: “Because we’ve been pressed so hard for football we haven’t paid enough attention to rugby, so we will now have to look at that.”
The PPS – which was developed in conjunction with Sport England and other local organisations – makes finding a replacement for the Faraday Road ground its number one priority as the council seeks to redevelop the site.
The strategy proposes to relocate the pitch at Faraday Road – together with the changing facilities and other necessary league requirements to create a Step 6 facility – to a site no more than 20 minutes’ drive away.
The grass will also be upgraded to a 3G pitch with the ability to develop it to a Step 5 facility.
Crucially, this site must be available before any construction work starts at Faraday Road.
The PPS can be viewed at https://bit.ly/32aqKDu