Hucknall Sports junior football club 'evicted' from their home in pitches controversy
Shock news has broken that a Hucknall junior football club, which has worked with thousands of young players over more than 40 years, has been 'evicted' from its home.
Furious supporters of Hucknall Sports have now launched a petition demanding Ashfield District Council change its mind after the club was told it would no longer be able to continue using pitches off Kenbrook Road in the town.
The fields have been at the centre of controversy in recent week as Sports Gateway had submitted plans to build a 3G pitch on the land.
The idea sparked objections from neighbouring residents – and even Sport England.
Now that plan has been put on ice in order for the applicants to work with the community.
But it has now been revealed that Sports - a club run entirely by volunteers - has been 'booted' from their base in the words of Hucknall MP Mark Spencer.
In an explanation on the online petition, it said: “After 44 years Hucknall Sports have been given notice of eviction which will prevent them continuing to play and nurture grassroots football on fields which they believed were going to be their home for many years to come.
"Hucknall Sports FC is at the heart of the development of the youth of Hucknall and finding new premises to play will be near impossible without major costs.
"Failure to overturn the decision will not only have a detrimental effect on Hucknall Sports FC but more so the accessibility to the young people at the heart of our community to access much needed recreational and personality building activities.
"The club has been the heart and soul of the Hucknall community and we urge for the decision to be reconsidered.
"The action of the council in our opinion is ruthless, unjustified and without any reasonable explanation.”
Sports have nurtured the talents of countless footballers down the years, including Nottingham Forest defender Joe Worrall.
Their current home was created to replace the historic Wigwam Playing Fields which were bequeathed to Hucknall as protected open space. But these were controversially built on despite years of campaigning. Part of the deal was that the developers provided new playing fields for the community.
Reacting to the decision over Hucknall Sports' use of the pitch, leader of Ashfield Council, Coun Jason Zadrozny, said: “The playing fields were provided for public access and we recognise that the area is a much valued local green space.
"Public access to the playing fields area will not be restricted.
"The council is committed to supporting grass-roots community football and providing facilities across Hucknall with sites at Titchfield Park, Nabbs Lane and the Merlin site on Kenbrook Road.
“Hucknall Sports have been offered alternative pitches on Titchfield Park, as well as exclusive use of the Merlin site which is in close proximity to the main Papplewick site.
"We are also aware that there are likely to be pitches available at the Rolls-Royce site and we understand that Hucknall Sports also has access to pitches at the Goosedale Sports Club in Bestwood.”
The news is just the latest chapter in the land’s recent history - and the 3G project - ever since it was first announced earlier this year.
At the time, Jamie Brough, representing Sports Gateway, said the project was for the whole town and something that Hucknall needed.
But angry residents of Papplewick Green have vehemently opposed the project, citing the loss of public green space, increased noise and light pollution, as well as increased traffic problems on the surrounding roads.
This week, Sports Gateway said it was putting the project on hold ahead of a potential planning decision later this month.
MP Mark Spencer highlighted strong opposition to it from Sport England, who said that, among other reasons, the project did not justify the loss of natural turf playing fields for an artificial surface.
Mr Spencer has also made claims about the project’s legitimacy and also asked why Sports Gateway representatives were marking out a pitch on the site this week when the project had not been given planning permission.
However, Coun Zadrozny said the pitch was marked out as part of a demonstration of a laser pitch-marking machine which a private company provided.
He added that the demonstration was arranged by Sports Gateway and council staff attended to watch it.
Mr Spencer said: “The last time I checked, this land was for the community and its benefit.
“The application, booting Hucknall Sports from their home, Sports Gateway allegedly measuring up the pitches before they’ve got permission – the whole thing is just plain wrong.
“We still need to know who will own the land, what agreements are in place, who came to these agreements, what is the financial agreement, who will control access to the site, who will be responsible for the traffic, will the car park have enough capacity and what will the impact on residents will be.
“Yet again, the Ashfield Independents are refusing to answer any questions. They have made up their minds. They don’t care about public opinion. They do not care about Hucknall Sports."
Coun Zadrozny replied: “Hucknall residents and sports clubs deserve better than his bizarre flailing around in a desperate attempt to win back votes his party is rapidly losing.
"Let me be very clear – it’s only the Ashfield Independents who are making positive progress to improve sports facilities for the whole of the Hucknall community.
“The council has been exploring opportunities to work with local clubs and organisations to improve the facilities at Papplewick Green open space.
"This includes the potential for a club or organisation to have a management agreement for the site.
"This would allow for much needed funding to be accessed from the Football Foundation for grass pitch improvements, funding which the council does not have access to.
"This is part of the council’s strategy to work with clubs and non-profit organisations to improve local facilities.
"The council is arranging a short-term management agreement with the locally-based Community Interest Company, a non-profit organisation – Sports Gateway – which is currently based at the Rolls-Royce Leisure site in Hucknall.
“This is with a view to entering into a longer-term lease for the site to provide sports-based education.
"The submission of an adequate business plan was required for the short-term management agreement.
"To arrange a lease on a council-owned facility, a set process has to be followed which includes a period of consultation.”
The Dispatch has approached Mr Brough and Sports Gateway for comment.
More to follow on this story