Leyburn United Junior Football Club submitted plans to Richmondshire Council to create two pitches and car parking north of the town, off Yarker Bank Lane, after facing years of uncertainty over playing on Wensleydale School’s fields, despite those pitches having been built using community money.
Confusion over who had access to the fields outside of school hours started when a security fence was erected there in 2017, weeks before counter-terrorism police swooped 19 miles away in Northallerton to tackle two schoolboys plotting a Columbine-style massacre.
While those behind the Yarker Bank playing field proposals say the uncertainty with the school fields has recently been resolved with the school confirming access, some residents claim there have been “confrontations” over children’s use of the pitches outside school hours.
North Yorkshire County councillor for Leyburn Karin Sedgwick said the town’s young people needed guaranteed use of football pitches and the need was so pressing that she had ploughed part of her discretionary budget into pushing the proposal forward.
She said while the town did have badminton and squash clubs, volunteers behind the proposal had “hit a brick wall when it came to finding grounds where football teams could play”.
The club’s chairman Chris Ellis said of the area’s biggest employers, Metcalfe Farms', offer of the use of a field at Yarker Bank, represented a potential breakthrough.
Mr Ellis said: “Leyburn is lacking in community recreational spaces and we see the chance to create some sports facilities on the edge of the town, and near a site earmarked for housing development, as too good an opportunity to turn down.”
He said the proposal followed the club growing rapidly in recent years, with around 100 young people regularly playing matches and training last season.
He said: “This coming season, we will have seven teams competing in leagues across the region. We have also recently become a Wildcats Centre - an initiative launched by the FA to develop girls' football - and will have a girls' team competing in a league for the first time next season.
“We currently train and play home matches at the Wensleydale School and we are very grateful for their support and intend to continue using the excellent facilities at the school, but to have a space we could call home would be a great asset to the club as it looks to grow further.”
The proposed pitches, which are close to the site of a controversial proposed housing estate, have already attracted questions over vehicle access.
Coun Sedgwick said she was optimistic a suitable entry road to the pitches could be found, even if some residents objected to it.
She added: “If the access is deemed suitable by highways officers, there’s no reason why the proposed pitches can’t go ahead.”