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Stone sports pitch threatened by care home development

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A Stone sports club has been in talks with Stafford Borough Council to help replace a playing area earmarked for a new care home.

Around a third of the Tilling Drive recreation area has been put up for sale by the borough council, which has said it will use the proceeds to fund improvements to leisure facilities in Stone.

But residents are fiercely opposed to the sale – and the proposals to build a care home on the site.

This month it was revealed that Stafford Borough Council had spoken to Stone Hockey and Rugby Club about replacing pitch space set to be lost at Tilling Drive with alternative provision at the club’s grounds at Enson Lane, off the A34.

A letter, signed by the secretary and chairperson of the community amateur sports club, said that committee members were in support of the proposal – and spoke of a grant being provided.

The letter said: “Part of the reason for not developing the area of land between the car park and A34 at Stone Hockey Club was because of the cost of moving the electricity pylons and routing the cables underground.

"By providing us with a grant this would enable us to get this work carried out, getting the grounds made good and provide some contribution to the new club build which specifically would be the changing rooms.

“We realise that this grant would be subject to planning permission and the sale of the land at Tilling Drive, but we can confirm that once that is confirmed we’d look to complete that work asap (as soon as possible).

"We are merging with Stone Rugby Club – and with their move to us brings in that £400K in Section 106 funds – but we are still short of funds to complete the full build programme, so the timing of your proposal is perfect as that gets us closer financially to where we need to be.

“We are looking to make a start on the new clubhouse build in the next year. It will be brilliant to have junior football played on the proposed site and it makes total sense to consolidate several sports around one new clubhouse and all its facilities.”

The council’s cultural services manager Mark Thornewill said: “To mitigate for the loss of part of the playing field at Tilling Drive an area of land at Stone Hockey and Rugby Club, that cannot currently be used for pitches due to the power lines and associated pylon running through it, has been identified to provide for compensatory provision.

"This proposed development provides for an area of approximately 14,100 sq metres to be brought into use and would provide for an increase in the overall number of pitches being available in the Stone area.

“Taking into account the site boundaries and pitch run off areas it will provide for one senior pitch or a combination of, for example, one U11/U12 and one U9/U10 pitches, this configuration also leaves sufficient additional area to be used to accommodate training sessions as necessary for rugby or football.

"By comparison the area of playing field being lost at Tilling Drive measures approximately 5,000 sq metres and taking into account the site boundaries and pitch run off areas it could accommodate one U9/U10 pitch.

“Western Power, the electricity infrastructure network company for the area, has surveyed the Stone Hockey and Rugby Club site and confirmed that it is practicable to remove the overhead lines and associated pylon and re-route the cables to allow for the area to be brought into use for sport pitches.”

But the proposal has not been welcomed by residents opposing the sale of the Tilling Drive land and care home plans however, who were urged to voice their objections to the council and the club.

Concerns include the distance children would face walking between the Tilling Drive green space and facilities at Enson Lane and taxpayers’ money being spent on a private club to replace free to use public facilities.

Resident Neil Richardson said: “Is it right to deprive the children of Walton of a much loved playing field for one they have to pay to use which is over two miles from the one they will lose?

“Is it right that SBC should pay this grant to deprive the children of Walton of this much loved playing field? Should council taxpayers’ money be used to deprive the council taxpayer of an asset they already own?

“Stone Hockey Club should look into the morality of this. They are, possibly unwittingly, being complicit in the sale of Tilling Drive.

“It's the highest form of contempt towards the public. They are a private club. It is elitist. They are either not aware of the high feelings regarding keeping Tilling Drive whole or they simply have their own agenda and do not realise.”

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