Thursday, 25 May 2017

Football club wants £600,000 artificial pitch

HENLEY Town Football Club could install an artificial pitch — or be relocated.

The Red Kites want to have a state-of-the-art 3G pitch to replace the current grass surface at the Triangle Ground in Mill Lane, which is prone to waterlogging, making it unplayable for weeks at a time.

The move is supported by AFC Henley and the YMCA, which make up the Henley Football Partnership.

But Henley Town Council, which owns the land, wants the club to also consider alternatives, including moving to another site.

The Partnership has asked the council for £400 to enable it to obtain pre-application advice from South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, about the viability of a FIFA quality artificial pitch.

But Deputy Mayor Will Hamilton encouraged the club to be more flexible and consider other possible solutions.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s finance strategy and management committee, he said: “They need to explore all the options and find out whether it’s feasible, whether the pitch needs to be raised, whether it’s suitable, and then we might have to look at other sites.

“Potentially we could move them to another area in the town and we could use that field for someone else.”

He said the club had discussed the flooding issue with him and some other councillors three years ago.

“The Triangle was flooding on a regular occasion,” he said. “They thought that as 3G pitches became better in terms of quality that would be one of their long-term aspirations. But what if you build a 3G pitch and it’s underwater, would you have to build that up?”

Town clerk Janet Wheeler urged the committee to agree to support the club, saying: “For them £400 is a lot of money and, without getting excited, they need to look at what is feasible on that site.”

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak added: “It’s our land and we should help them.”

The committee agreed and the issue will now be discussed by the council’s recreation and amenities committee.

Club secretary Tony Kingston told the Henley Standard: “To play our standard of football we need the stand, hard standing and floodlights.

“If they could do that and build us another ground, fine.

“They couldn’t just move us into a field with a football pitch because that wouldn’t be suitable for the standard of football we play.

“We need at least 100 seats in a stand, we need covered standing for about 150 people, barriers all around the pitch, hard standing behind the barriers and floodlights. It has also got to be an enclosed facility.

“It has taken a long time to get the Triangle Ground up to that standard.

“If they move us to another facility it’s going to cost a lot of money. If they are prepared to do it, I’m all for it.”

Mr Kingston believed the 3G pitch would cost £600,000 and said grants were being sought from the Football Association and Oxfordshire Football Association.

Henley Town FC has four sides, the seniors, reserves, Allied Counties and a senior Sunday league team.

The first XI plays in the Hellenic League Premier Division and finished bottom at the end of last season but will not necessarily be relegated.

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