An ambitious bid to build £1million state-of-the-art sports facilities in Alnwick will go ahead, after a £409,000 grant was awarded to the project.
Alnwick Town FC Juniors are behind the scheme to develop a full-size floodlit pitch with synthetic surface, as well as a clubhouse and changing area, at their base at Greensfield.
In what is a real boost for the community, the facilities will also be used by the town’s Duchess’s Community High School and will be available for other clubs and sports when not in use by the football club.
Planning approval was granted by Northumberland County Council in December and the football club had already raised £640,000 towards the development.
But on Tuesday, the Juniors announced that the final piece of the jigsaw had been completed, by securing the £409,000 grant from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.
It means that the club has reached the milestone £1million needed for the development to take place. The aim is to start work in the spring and it is hoped that the project will be completed by this time next year.
The club says that developing the facilities realises a ‘two-decade-long dream’.
Alnwick Town Juniors chairman Peter Hately said: “I have to say it is an amazing feeling to be talking about when construction will commence, rather than if it will.
“I would like to thank everyone who has worked on the project at the Northumberland FA (NFA) and the Football Foundation (FF).
“Without the professionalism and dedication of Mark Woodhall (NFA) and Adrian Morris (FF) in particular, we would not have been able to put this final piece of the jigsaw into place.
“This is a fantastic example of a community project with many key stakeholders making significant contributions.
“Northumberland County Council, Alnwick Town Council, the Football Foundation, the Duchess’s Community High School and Northumberland Estates have all invested in the project in one way or another. The club would like to thank all these organisations and the individuals within them who have got us to this stage. We would also like to thank Alnwick councillor Gordon Castle who has championed this project from day one and whose input has been vital.
“The next few months look set to be busy ones and there are quite a few loose ends to tie up before things get underway, but with planning, funding and contractors all in place, we are hopeful of starting the clubhouse in April/May this year.”
Mr Hately also thanked the club’s vice-chairman, Paul Davidson, for his ‘outstanding contribution’ to the project.
He said: “It is almost two years to the day since Paul and I first sat down with representatives from the FA to discuss the concept of developing facilities in Alnwick and if I told you how many hours Paul has spent working on this since then, you frankly wouldn’t believe me.”
After hearing the news of the successful Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund grant, the club took to Facebook to praise the efforts of their chairman.
The statement said: ‘We as a club can not post this message without recognising the fantastic work Peter has carried out to ensure this project will happen.
‘In two years he has achieved a two-decade-long dream for the young people of this town. Carrying on from his father’s great work for the Juniors we are sure has made his whole family very proud.’
The development is a major boost for the club, which over the years has had to operate with makeshift facilities at Greensfield – with players having to get changed in cars and pitches marked out on fields borrowed from local farmers or Northumberland Estates.
Once the project is complete, the Juniors will have access to the synthetic pitch, as well as retaining three grass pitches close by.
Coun Castle, who represents Alnwick on a town and county-council level, praised the club for achieving its goal.
He said: “As the person who persuaded Peter Hately to take this important project on I have been in on it from the beginning and done all that could be done to help it through both county and town councils for funding together with Northumberland Estates who granted the land.
“I’m absolutely delighted that it is so close to being installed and can say without fear of contradiction that without Peter Hately in charge we would not be anywhere near this position.
“He has put hundreds of unpaid hours into it and earned the full confidence of key people holding the purse strings. Alnwick has needed this facility for many years and I thank those behind the scenes who have helped make it happen.”
Earlier this month, Alnwick Town Juniors were crowned Club of the Year at the Alnwick and District Sports Awards, while Mr Hately was named Volunteer of the Year.