Barnsley Council denies breaching historic covenant protecting sports ground gifted to miners by Earl Fitzwilliam of Wentworth Woodhouse

Barnsley Council has denied that it has breached a covenant protecting Rockingham Sports Ground as plans to relocate the ground to Parkside Road press on.

The sports ground was originally gifted to the mining village by the Fitzwilliams of Wentworth Woodhouse

Councillors adopted the Hoyland South masterplan in November 2020, which gave the green light to plans that will change the face of the area.

The plans will see up to 1,116 new homes, a new primary school, community hubs and active travel routes, as well as the relocation of the Rockingham Sports Centre to Parkside Road by the end of April.

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A new Hermes hub - the largest of its kind in Europe - was approved as part of a separate masterplan for Hoyland West, much to some residents’ dismay.

Mark Goodison, 30, founded the Save Hoyland group in response to the plans, and says that the plans to move Rockingham Sports Ground to Parkside to make way for the plans will breach a covenant from 1985.

Mr Goodison says that Barnsley Council bought the land in 1985, and a planning application from 1990 'shows clear lines around Rockingham and Parkside which cannot be used, as the land was gifted to local miners by the Earl of Wentworth.'

He said: “HM Land Register states Barnsley Council bought Rockingham in 1985 covenant F states can only be used for sports and recreation. The original planning application of 1990 shows clear lines around Rockingham and Parkside, which cannot be used.

“Barnsley Council know they cannot breach the covenant, that’s why they are selling Rockingham back to Wentworth, hoping they can remove the covenant, but failing to inform residents they are trying to remove there legal right to use Rockingham given to them and the local miners in perpetuity by the Earl.”

However, a council spokesperson denied that this was the case and said that the council had agreed that the Fitzwilliam Trust Corporation could purchase the land where the sports ground sits.

Although the remaining Fitzwilliams sold Wentworth Woodhouse and its grounds in the 1980s after the earldom became extinct, a branch of the family still owns much of the former estate land in the Barnsley and Rotherham areas.

The council spokesperson added: “The purchase of the land would be in two separate phases and require the Fitzwilliam Trust Corporation to obtain planning permission to develop their adjoining land for warehouse and office accommodation.

“Although the use of the Rockingham Sports Ground is currently restricted to leisure and recreational use, it does not mean this can’t be widened or removed by the party in charge of the covenant - in this case, the Fitzwilliam Trust Corporation. Most importantly, as the holders of the covenant, they were included in the discussions and agreed to the proposal.

“The plan is to begin works at the sports ground site towards the end of April so that the remainder of the site can continue to be available for leisure and recreational use. This part of the site will remain under the restriction, for now, until relocation to the Parkside site is complete.

“It is important to note that the council has been working with the Fitzwilliam Trust Corporation, the developer, and the Forge Community Partnership throughout.

“Long-term, this will provide a much-improved facility and a better recreational offer for the community.”