Hundreds vow to fight sports hub plan
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.