Sport England responds to controversy over Melton Town FC’s 3G pitch

Sport England has put the ball in Melton Borough Council’s court regarding its controversial decision to object to Melton Town FC’s plans to build a new 3G football pitch.

By Nick Rennie
Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 10:18 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 4:14 pm
An aerial view of Melton Town FC's pitch at Melton Sports Village PHOTO Mark @ Aerialview360 EMN-210622-100655001

The government body, which promotes sport and consults on new facilities, says it’s opinion is just one of the considerations for the council’s planning committee when it comes to considering the football club’s application.

We reported yesterday (Monday) how Sport England had lodged a ‘holding objection’ to the scheme because it felt the proposals were not detailed enough regarding the community use of the new pitch and that there was no perceived need for another artificial field in the borough with John Ferneley College already having planning approval for one at its Scalford Road site.

Melton Borough Council can still approve Melton Town FC’s pitch scheme but Sport England’s objection means it would now have to be referred to the Secretary of State, and that would cast doubt over whether it would then be permitted, delaying it all at a time when the club needs it for the new season in August after being promoted.

Melton Town FC reacted angrily to Sport England’s stance, pointing out that the pitch was instrumental in allowing it to run youth teams from under sevens upwards and also to help the first team play at the highest level of football ever seen in Melton from next season.

There are also plans for pupils at the town’s adjoining Birch Wood Area Special School to be able to use the pitch for sports and exercise.

Social media has buzzed with unhappy people upset that Sport England would seek to block the pitch when it was supposed to promote health and fitness, after we broke the story.

And Melton MP Alicia Kearns is due to meet officials from Sport England today after questioning why the body is trying to influence a decision when ‘this is private funding for a private football club on a private pitch’.

In response to our story Sport England told the Melton Times this morning: “Sport England’s position and view is only one of several considerations that a council will take into account when reaching a planning decision.

“In this instance, as indicated in our report, there were significant gaps in the information provided - particularly in relation to the viability, the operation and the design of the facility.

“As there had been no consultation with Sport England, the FA or the Football Foundation before the application had been lodged - as would be standard practice so that this information can be discussed - we therefore lodged a holding objection.

“We would now encourage the applicants and the council to have further discussions to give proper time for the examination of the proposal with all of the facts available, including the inconsistencies of the proposal with the council’s own playing pitch strategy.

“Ultimately the decision is for Melton Council and not Sport England.”