This letter was published in our award-winning local paper, Newbury Weekly News, on Thursday 24 September 2020. Here’s the pre-publication version, thanks to Lee McDougall. See the letters page in the image below. The Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) has an excellent website here – check out their story and the ongoing campaign for Newbury’s Football Ground.
Reopen football ground for young people to use
There is now a valid and worthwhile proposal to be tabled to West Berks Council about re-opening the Faraday Road Football Ground (even as an interim step) for organised youth football. This follows discussions between NCFG and Councillor Howard Woollaston and we have shared these plans with Newbury MP Laura Farris too – and have had very welcome support from Newbury Town Council.
For a relatively small cost and by using modular, removable changing rooms and toilets and temporary floodlights, the ground could be re-opened as a FA step 7 facility for youth football in as little as just 8 weeks.
The U-turn announcement by West Berks Council to formally commit to finding and building a replacement Step 5 football ground as part of their Playing Pitch Strategy was a welcome (if not long overdue) reversal of the Council’s previous denials of responsibility to replace the ground (should they get approvals to demolish the existing ground) and is seen by many as an admission by the Council that they were wrong to close the ground unnecessarily 2 years ago.
Hundreds, if not thousands of children have been denied the opportunity to use that ground for the last 2 years and with a London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) plan that is still several years from any tangible activity, they look set to be denied the opportunity to play organised sport there for several more years too, if action isn’t taken
The Council have found the money and effort to sell the stand, remove the pitch fencing and allow the building to fall into dis-repair and now have the budget and will to demolish the club house, changing rooms (subject to giving themselves planning approval) so we hope they can find a smaller budget and the inclination to deploy some temporary buildings to re-open the ground for organised youth football.
Consider this, for the last 15 years the only money West Berks Council will have spent of the Council owned community football ground has been to dismantle and destroy it, not a penny has been spent on maintaining it, never mind improving it. Their current plan is to use the ground as a “recreational space” ie a area of grass to throw frisbees and for “jumpers for goalposts” style football – 2 years ago this was classed as a top 3 football ground by the Berks and Bucks FA – what a sad come down for Newbury. The Council have openly admitted there is no evidence of need or justification for a recreational space, it was just the “cheapest option”, by contrast NCFG have provided overwhelming evidence of need for it be be reopened for organised youth football, including evidence by the FA.
Surely it’s about time after all these years and while we wait for the new promised football stadium, for the Council to spend a little money putting right the damage they have done, to allow kids to play organised football?
Can common sense prevail before it really is too late?
Newbury Community Football Group