ESSEX: Town sports facility ‘wasted’

PUBLISHED: 08:34 02 August 2010

Manager of Saffron Walden Town Ladies FC, Mick Eldred, on the multi-use games area at Crabtrees

Manager of Saffron Walden Town Ladies FC, Mick Eldred, on the multi-use games area at Crabtrees

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SPORTS teams in Saffron Walden are struggling to find venues to train and play matches while a purpose-built facility has been “left to waste” for more than three years.

SPORTS teams in Saffron Walden are struggling to find venues to train and play matches while a purpose-built facility has been “left to waste” for more than three years.

A football pitch, a multi-use games area and a pavilion with a 32-space car park, built at Crabtrees as part of a development deal, should have been fit for use by the town’s clubs in 2007. The multi-use games area is floodlit and can be used as two tennis courts or a five-a-side football pitch.

However the facilities, which have been built by developer Countryside Properties, have still not been handed over to Saffron Walden Town Council and remain unfinished.

Manager of Saffron Walden Town Ladies Football Club, Mick Eldred, said the club had been promised use of the site and was now suffering because they still did not have a permanent home.

“Last season we had about 20 players and this year it’s dropped to about 14 or 15 because the girls get poached by clubs with better facilities like Cambridge or Haverhill,” he said. “Three or four years ago we had a good group of under-15s coming through, but by the time they were old enough to play for the senior team they had gone to other clubs.

“The pitches at Crabtrees could make a huge difference because we could all train in one place, instead of going to Ickleton, Thaxted or wherever. And we wouldn’t have to play our home games at Catons Lane which is already very crowded.

“To only have one pitch in a town this size is ridiculous. Even the smaller villages like Thaxted and Great Chesterford have better facilities. This new pitch could be really good for lots of teams in the town but it is just being left to waste.”

Town and district councillor Jim Ketteridge said: “There has been so much negotiation with Countryside Properties over this and, to be honest, they have been a nightmare. We were promised last September that it would be done in the autumn and they reneged on this.

“It’s getting on for a year that I had a meeting with one of the directors and it’s not moved very far forward. It is now too late to do anything with the pitch until next spring.

“It’s not just the football pitch – the multi-use games area has been messed up and there are issues with the lighting.”

A spokesman for Countryside Properties said: “We have been trying to transfer the land to the council since March, however there is a clause in the land contract which means the transfer has to be agreed by David Wilson Homes.

“We are chasing David Wilson Homes to try and bring this matter to a conclusion.”

Managing director of David Wilson Eastern, Keith Parrett, said: “We are unaware of any matters which would affect the transfer of the football pitch to the local council.”

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