Lifeline hopes for village club

A GRASS-ROOTS football club, which is fighting to stay at its home following the closure of a village school, looks like it has scored a vital lifeline, but its long-term future could still be in the balance.

Morpeth Sunday League team North End Trap Broomhill stands to lose its current changing and storage facilities when James Calvert Spence College (JCSC) – Hadston Road, formerly Druridge Bay Middle School, is demolished, after it shuts this summer.

The club had registered the school site as its home ground for the 2011-12 season but the closure left it facing doubt as to whether it will be able to play its home matches there in the future.

But discussions have taken place to try to find a solution and it looks like the club has netted an important lifeline, at least in the short term, with the county council set to supply key facilities.

However, the club has been told to consider making alternative arrangements for future football seasons as the future use of the pitches is currently unknown – despite assurances that the playing fields would be retained for community use.

It comes after Martin Hay, manager for integrated facilities services at the county council, met club manager Keith Morley last week to thrash out the situation.

Mr Hay said that the county council is seeking costs for the installation of a stand-alone unit to re-provide changing accommodation while a lockable storage container on the site for the sole use of the club will be supplied on a temporary basis for the club’s equipment.

It has also been agreed that goal-posts could be left permanently in place allowing children to use the goals when the club is not playing.

But Mr Hay added: “I have advised Keith that, as the future use of the pitches was presently unknown – the council may decide to dispose of or retain all or part of the site – he should consider making alternative arrangements for future football seasons if the site at Hadston was not available to him.”

The county council is also investigating the possibility of providing alternative changing rooms and shower accommodation elsewhere in the locality and if substitute accommodation is found, the suitability would be discussed with the club.

Those fighting the Trap’s corner have welcomed the breakthrough, although they admit the long-term future is still not clear and fresh fears have been raised about the future of the pitches.

Coun Glen Sanderson, ward member for Chevington with Longhorsley, said: “The county council is doing its very best to try to stop the gap that has been left by the closure of the school and provide some emergency back up facilities for the club which I think is a very positive move.

“But the long-term issues are still too cloudy for my liking and there is still vagueness in the final outcome for the club.”

He added: “I had been given assurances that there were no plans to sell-off the playing fields and this would be vigorously opposed by myself and others.”

Coun Scott Dickinson, chairman of East Chevington Parish Council, added: “I think there is still a long road ahead and many discussions that need to happen, and soon, but it is comforting to the club that the county council has listened to the concerns of the club and the parish council and is attempting to resolve issues being left as a result of the closure of the village school.

“However nobody is actually sure what the future of the playing fields will be and this maybe gives the indication that other plans are being talked about by county as to uses for the site as a whole.”