Hun­dreds vow to fight sports hub plan

Accrington Observer - - FRONT PAGE - JON MACPHER­SON jon.macpher­ @JonMacMEN

RES­I­DENTS liv­ing near Higham’s Play­ing Fields have vowed to fight plans by Ac­cring­ton Stan­ley Com­mu­nity Trust to build a £2 mil­lion sports hub.

Nearly 300 peo­ple packed into St Joseph’s Church on Bel­garth Road for a heated pub­lic meet­ing with coun­cil bosses with the vast ma­jor­ity voic­ing their out­cry against the pro­pos­als.

Con­cerns were raised over the ‘dev­as­tat­ing im­pact’ it could have on lo­cal peo­ple’s lives with fears that the de­vel­op­ment will lower house prices, cause traf­fic and park­ing prob­lems and lead to noise and light­ing is­sues.

A ‘Save Highams Play­ing Fields’ com­mit­tee was for­mally set up at the meet­ing on Wed­nes­day night and will be chaired by Milnshaw coun­cil­lor Mal­colm Pritchard who has al­ready re­ceived nearly 800 sig­na­tures from an on­line pe­ti­tion.

Coun Pritchard said the pop­u­lar play­ing fields should be ‘kept open for the res­i­dents’ and ar­gued ‘if there’s a fence around it then it’s not go­ing to be a pub­lic play­ing field’.

The sports hub, which has re­ceived back­ing from am­a­teur foot­ball leagues and clubs in Hyn­d­burn, would in­clude a large 3G pitch, an ar­ti­fi­cial cricket wicket, two grass foot­ball pitches and one grass rugby or foot­ball pitch, chang­ing rooms, cafe­te­ria and a car park ‘to ease traf­fic con­ges­tion on Thor­ney­holme Road’.

How­ever, res­i­dents at the meet­ing told coun­cil leader Miles Parkin­son that ‘no­body in the area wanted the de­vel­op­ment’ and that the fa­cil­ity would have a ‘re­ally dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on peo­ple’s lives’.

One said: “I think the first thing that you have got to sat­isfy are the lo­cal res­i­dents. That field was left to the peo­ple of Ac­cring­ton.

“I don’t think the coun­cil have the right to pass them on to some­body else.”

Some res­i­dents voiced fears that the site could be­come a ‘white ele­phant’, claim­ing there are too many other fa­cil­i­ties nearby and ‘not enough clubs’ able to sus­tain it, while oth­ers be­lieved the de­ci­sion was ‘al­ready cut and dried’.

Con­cerns were also raised over the pos­si­ble ad­verse im­pact on the lo­cal el­derly, dis­abled and those with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties who reg­u­larly use the play­ing field for walk­ing, play­ing and hav­ing pic­nics.

One res­i­dent hit out at the trust for not send­ing a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the meet­ing, say­ing: “They are mak­ing a big show about ben­e­fit­ing the com­mu­nity but the fact is none of them are here tonight.

“Whether they are ready with the plans or not they should be here to find out what we feel now.”

The Observer re­ported ear­lier this month how Ac­cring­ton Stan­ley Com­mu­nity Trust rep­re­sen­ta­tives would not be at­tend­ing the meet­ing be­cause they ‘do not have the full sports hub plans to feed back to the pub­lic’.

Those plans are set to be pub­lished within the next four weeks, with trust bosses promis­ing to hold an­other pub­lic meet­ing to up­date res­i­dents and an­swer ques­tions.

Nearly 300 res­i­dents at­tend a pub­lic meet­ing over pro­pos­als for a £2 mil­lion sports hub on Higham’s Play­ing Fields (inset). Coun­cil­lor Mal­colm Pritchard is pic­tured addressing the meet­ing.

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