Football club must restrict community use to overcome 3G pitch objection

Melton’s biggest football club has been asked to accept restrictions on the use of its planned 3G pitch in return for Sport England lifting its objection to the scheme.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 1:26 pm
Melton Town FC EMN-210623-105032001

The Melton Times understands that the club would need to agree to not allow community use of the artificial surface, which would destroy its intentions to allow junior teams to play on it to feed into the adult first team and for neighbouring Birch Wood Area Special School pupils to use it during the day.

Sport England this morning (Thursday) declined to comment on whether it was seeking restrictions on use of the pitch or on the ongoing discussions with the club and MP, Alicia Kearns, which are aimed at resolving the issue.

Melton Borough Council is due to consider the club’s planning application but Sport England’s objection would mean it would need to be referred to the Secretary of State even if councillors do approve it.

That would delay the process further at a time when the club needs the pitch to be in place to help it play at the highest level of football ever seen in the town - the artificial surface will reduce the threat of matches being postponed due to flooding, which has been a real issue with the existing grass pitch.

The league has allowed Town to play its early fixtures away until the first week of September to give it time to install the 3G pitch, and contractors are ready to do the work next month when planning permission is given.

We reported this week how the club said it was ‘angry and upset’ by Sport England’s ‘holding objection’ to the new pitch.

This is linked to the 3G pitch across town at John Ferneley College, which already has planning permission.

Sport England says it has a duty to protect the viability of sporting facilities, with the school pitch also set to be made available for community use.

Melton Town FC continues to protest that it’s privately-funded pitch would be on private land at that Sport England were breaching anti-competition guidelines by objecting to its planned new facility.

MP, Mrs Kearns, told the Melton Times this afternoon (Thursday): “As soon as I was aware of this issue I urgently convened meetings with Sport England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to resolve the issues around Sport England’s holding objection.

“A final summit will take place this week where I hope that by working together in the best interests of our town, young people and football we can move forward and secure for Melton the fantastic new sports facility Melton Town FC wants to build.”

Sport England’s director of property, Charles Johnston, has written to the club’s chairman, Sam Ellis, stating: “Although Sport England currently has an objection on this proposal, this does not preclude further dialogue to resolve the issues that have been raised.

“In our experience bringing all partners to the table to discuss these issues can often lead to an overall improvement in sports provision and in nearly half of cases, once Sport England’s initial objections have been raised, they can subsequently be withdrawn following further discussion and renegotiation.”