Saturday, 27 February 2021

Cricket club move could be stumped by development

PLANS have been drawn up to relocate Watlington Cricket Club.

The club says it has outgrown its existing facility at the recreation ground, off Shirburn Road, which it shares with Watlington Town Football Club.

It wants to move to the adjacent field, which falls into neighbouring Pyrton parish and is bounded on two sides by Pyrton Lane.

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.

Developer Providence Land has submitted an application to South Oxfordshire District Council for 100 homes on the field and the land has been earmarked for part of a new “edge road” or by-pass.

However, the club believes it has a strong case.

Club chairman Neil Boddington, who runs his own planning consultancy business in Watlington, said: “The district council’s playing pitch strategy recognises the shortfall in Watlington.

“As a town, we’ve been allocated 260 houses but we are now looking at something like 420 being built.

“We are getting a good chunk of housing without getting any extra sports facilities. The only place we feel we can go is part of this field, which falls into Pyrton.

“The land is immediately adjacent to the existing facility, so all the playing pitches can be within close proximity of each other.

“The [Providence] planning application has to deal with the shortfall of sports facilities.

“It seems to us that we have strong grounds because, in order to make the provision conform with policy, district council planners can insist that playing pitches form part of the application.”

Mr Boddington, 63, who lives in Shirburn Street, Watlington, and is a former parish councillor, hopes the move can be completed by 2032, when the club will celebrate its 200th anniversary.

He said: “There is no future if we have to stay where we are because we will just go back to having one team. We have to keep up the momentum and we see this as a long-term vision.”

He estimates the move would cost between £400,000 and £500,000 and hopes that part of the money would come form developer contributions. In the interim the club would have to consider using facilities that are no longer used by established clubs, such as Lewknor.

“The next stage is to make the case to Watlington and Pyrton parish councils for recreation to be part of the proposed development,” said Mr Boddington.

“We are pushing very hard to be at the table for negotiations.

“To say we are committed is an understatement — we are confident we can get to where we want.

“We have not been consulted on any of the previous housing sites nor this site and we need to be heard as there is demand for more sports pitches in and around the town.”

Mr Boddington, who has been a member of the cricket club since 1985 and chairman for three years, said it had a good relationship with the football club and both were “growing like mad”.

However. he said: “They play football on our outfield, which is not satisfactory because they chew it up and it takes a long time to recover. The cricket pitch is suffering for most of the summer.

“The footballers want another full-size pitch, which can’t be accommodated without coming right across the cricket pitch and we’ve got new players coming in left, right and centre.

“For a long time, we were a typical village team running one side and limping along not doing very much but about 10 years ago the Football Association gave a substantial contribution towards rebuilding the pavilion and part of their justification was they wanted to see football grow.

“For a while, nothing happened and the association said, ‘If you want to hang on to the money you’ve got to do something’ and they did.

“They got a youth policy that grew very quickly and, not to be left behind, the cricket club decided to do the same thing.”

Each club now has about 150 members and growing interest from both junior and adult players.

The cricket club has two Saturday XIs and has committed to a third due to the increase in demand. It also has a women’s team and age-group cricket starting at under-5s.

Its ground is also sometimes used to host junior and women’s county matches.

The football club has a first team, reserve side and veteran’s team as well as junior sides, starting with the under-8s.

The project has the support of the England and Wales Cricket Board and Sport England.

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