The Secretary of the football club that uses Southborough’s Ridgewaye fields has said that the latest hub development plans for the area are “very very disappointing.”
Club Secretary Colin Niccolls said that trust between the soccer club and the Hub project team “has evaporated” and he has been “very frustrated” by the way the facilities being offered to the club have been steadily reduced over the past six months.
Sunday 2pm update: Brian Dury of the Southborough Environmental Action Movement (SEAM), which has been campaigning to stop development on the Ridgewaye playing fields since the 1990s, has launched a new electronic public petition against the current Hub scheme. The petition gained 220 supporters on day one but probably needs around 2,000 supporters to make a difference to the Southborough Councillors who believe most people favour their scheme. See:
The Tunbridge Wells Youth Football Club motivates more than 500 boys and girls to play football every week. The age range is from 6 to 17 and the vast majority of the younger players are from Southborough itself.
Club Secretary Colin Niccolls, who has lived in Southborough for the past 17 years, says he is amazed that a small group of councillors are pushing forward with an unpopular scheme and “appear not to give two hoots” about what most local people want.
Mr Niccolls also told Southborough News that he understands that the KCC project team are attempting to overcome the Sport England objection to the Hub planning application by promising some major engineering works at the northern end of the Ridgewaye fields.
Mr Niccolls thinks they have a plan to build a retaining wall along the Ridgewaye lane hedges to bank up earth so that more of the fields will be made flat enough to provide replacement soccer pitches for those lost to housing in the Hub scheme.
Mr Niccolls says the plans for 69 housing units will obliterate two mini-pitches and render useless one full sized pitch. However, in the plans issued by KCC, the project team plays down the impact on the football pitches and argues that “The Football Pavilion has been sited to avoid impact on pitch layouts and is orientated on an east west axis in line with Sport England Guidance.”
The Design Statement sent to planners says: “This plan also demonstrates that there is no loss of football pitches within the AL/S03 site. There is still sufficient space for 4 under 7 pitches and two under 16 pitches to marked out on the field. The Football Pavilion and Ground Workers Storage Unit is located within the AL/S03 site boundary, however these facilities are provided to support the use of the open space.” See diagram below:
Mr Niccolls says that initially the club were optimistic that the loss of soccer pitches would be compensated for by a promise from the Hub project team of a large club house that would be a permanent base for decades to come and “do the community justice.” Early in the process, he said “there was a real opportunity to do something for the community”.
However, Mr Niccolls says that the Hub project team are now only offering the club limited changing rooms in a building joined onto the Council maintenance block. He said this is “worse in terms of space by a long way” compared with their current facilities and their concerns are being “ignored”.
The project team have stated that the football club are free to apply to the Football Foundation for funding to enhance the planned pavillion.
A key figure in promoting the Hub scheme, Councillor Peter Oakford, told Southborough News that he could not comment until after the planning committee meeting to decide on whether to approve the Hub. Public comments on the Hub are continuing to be published by the Tunbridge Wells Planning website and are still being copied onto this page on this website for ease of reading:
The soccer club currently use the former sixth form block of the Ridgewaye school and have spent their own funds creating changing rooms there. This building is planned to be knocked down and replaced by new housing that will pay for the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall and construction of the new Hub building.
Mr Niccolls stressed the importance of the club to developing a community spirit in the area as it “allows kids to be energetic, to learn to be active and develop team skills”.
The KCC planning application says of the new club house: “The building has been split over two floors to minimise the impact on the open space of the recreation grounds and also to maximise the views from the social space to the field where football matches will take place. By reducing the footprint of the building we have been able to maintain the existing number of pitches in this area of the fields”.
The KCC plan continues: “The pavilion will – like the rest of the hub – use a solid, masonry clad or render finish to the base of the building with a lightweight polycarbonate cladding at first floor to create a lightbox feature to the building”.