Monday, 29 November 2021

Clubs asked by council to look after sports pavilion

THE football and cricket clubs in Watlington have been asked to take over responsibility for the upkeep of the village’s sports pavilion.

The parish council, which owns the building off Shirburn Road, says the move would enable it to save money. It follows criticism by the clubs of the council’s management of the pavilion.

The council has agreed to give the two clubs a one-year trial period of looking after the pavilion jointly, starting in 2023.

However, some councillors have claimed the clubs won’t be up to the task and one claimed it could result in a “shambles”.

The building, which was built in 2005, is rented by the clubs and is also used by Watlington youth club on Thursday evenings. Beechwood Estates owns the sports fields.

Speaking at a council meeting, Councillor Steve Bolingbroke said: “Three clubs are currently using the pavilion and the sports clubs are quite unhappy with the way it is managed and even threatened to stop paying rent for the building if the council didn’t do a better job.

“The football and cricket clubs have had a very successful few years and have even talked about relocating. As the clubs use the pavilion, the council can’t rent it out for other activities.

“There is a gap between the people that use the building and the people that run it. I think we should close that gap and solve this problem in one go. Taking this action, the clubs can then make decisions — if they are aware of a problem, they can fix it straight away, maintain the building in proper conditions and keep it clean.”

Councillor Margaret Noon said: “I’m concerned about how we can monitor how they keep the place in good repair. I don’t think we have evidence that they can do that.”

Councillor Ian Hill said: “If we just give it to them to manage, it will be a shambles. I think it’s a sensible idea to have one year of an intermediate arrangement.”

Councillor Roger Beattie said: “The clubs have no management at all and they should get that in order before we let them run it.”

Matt Reid, who chairs the council, said: “They will have to find capable members of the community to help manage it and they have driven people away in the past.” Councillor Tim Horton said the relationship between the clubs and the council had been strained.

“We had difficult situations with the football and cricket clubs pretty much straight away. We could see the clubs go if we decide to go down this route.”

Cllr Bolingbroke responded: “Why are these clubs so successful but can’t manage their own affairs? It’s their job and they need to manage it. They are grown-ups and we should treat them like that.

“We also want to make sure that we can take it back if they don’t do a good enough job.”

He said he had raised the issue with both clubs and asked them to send a representative to the meeting but neither had done so.

The council agreed to lease the pavilion to the clubs for a “peppercorn” rent on the condition they keep the pavilion in good repair. It may also allow them to sub-let to other parties.

The council’s pavilion and sports field sub-committee will negotiate the terms of the lease with the clubs and will then be dissolved.

In May last year, the clubs asked the council to reduce their rent or give them a rebate. In February, the cricket club said it had outgrown the facility and wanted to move to the adjacent field, which is in Pyrton parish.

It said that this would allow the football club to stay at the sports ground and add a second full-sized pitch, while the cricket club would have two pitches and be able to build a new pavilion.

However, developer Providence Land submitted an application to South Oxfordshire District Council for 100 homes on the adjacent field and the land has been earmarked for part of the proposed Watlington bypass.

Meanwhile, the youth club also hopes to relocate with the proposed construction of a new building at the recreation ground in Love Lane.

This would be a “permanent young persons’ facility” with cooking and toilet facilities, a lounge area, a computer room and a “quiet” room where people could chat. The building could also be used by families visiting the recreation ground.

An initial budget for the building of £25,000 has been allocated from the Watlington young people’s fund.

In June, the council deferred a decision to confirm its preferred site at the recreation ground and to agree a budget of £3,000 to cover the cost of seeking external funding.

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