Footballers fail in pitches plea

Simon Bristow

A LEADING amateur football club has accused East Riding Council of “moving the goalposts” after its second bid in six months to move to a new ground was turned down.

Despite impassioned pleas on the club’s behalf, the council’s planning committee yesterday refused to grant Hornsea Town Football Club permission to develop new pitches and facilities on farmland in the village of Rolston.

The original application was turned down after concerns about access to the site from the B1242, which the club says it addressed in its latest application.

Former player John Bickenson, 69, who combines the roles of chairman, secretary and manager, said: “This a short-sighted decision. It goes completely against the what the Government is saying when it calls for more football pitches for kids.

“The highways department were concerned about access before and we understood they were happy with our changes. They have moved the goalposts on this one.”

The club, which was established in 1904 and has eight teams competing from under-10s to veteran level, was offered the land at an “affordable” price by supportive farmer John Hepworth.

It says its current home at Hollis recreation ground is inadequate and the club needs to expand to accommodate an explosion of interest in the game.

But villagers, who wrote nine letters of objection, said it would destroy their peace and quiet and that the increased traffic the development would create would cause danger at the junction with the main road.

They feared spectators would not be “respectful or sensitive” to residents in Willow Garth.

Residents were also concerned they would lose their parking places in the village.

Mr Bickenson maintained the move was “absolutely vital” to the club’s future.

He said: “There is an acute sense of disappointment. This is a hotbed of football and this is very bad news for the future development of football in Hornsea.

“It’s ridiculous that a town this size doesn’t have facilities for a decent football club. We have been asked to run under-eights and a girls’ team, but there’s no way we can do that now and it’s the kids who will suffer.”

Objectors said the club, which plays in the Humber Premier League, should have been able to find a more suitable site, but Mr Bickenson said the club had exhausted its options.

He said: “To say that we should find somewhere else is ridiculous. I’ve been round every farmer in Hornsea but the only one who has helped us out is John Hepworth.

“I was quoted 10,000 an acre at one place. How could we afford that? This was the best option, the only option.”

Mr Hepworth, who has been preparing the site for weeks, has spent about 1,500 laying seed and cutting the grass.

“The only people who can play on it now are his grandkids,” said Mr Bickenson.

It took the chairman’s casting vote to make the decision after the committee was split at 5-5.

A council spokesman said officers felt the site was not suitable but the committee was sympathetic and money had been set aside to find the club somewhere else to play.