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Sport chiefs are frustrated once more in land battle

By Uttoxeter Advertiser  |  Posted: August 27, 2014

By Richard Castle

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ONE of the top bosses at Oldfields Sport and Social Club claims attempts to secure funding is 'getting them nowhere' in their bid for vital land where youngsters can play sport.

As revealed last week, the Football Association (FA) and Rugby Football Union (RFU) have both pledged to help secure funding to help Uttoxeter's clubs set up facilities on land at Mount Pleasant.

Uttoxeter Town FC and Uttoxeter RFC have just one pitch each at Oldfields and have completely outgrown the historic ground.

But Staffordshire County Council, which owns the land, is still insisting it need to sell the land for housing for the elderly.

The council's plan flies in the face of 10,000 people who signed a petition against housing at Mount Pleasant - as well as both Uttoxeter's parliamentary candidates and the FA and RFU.

Now Oldfields boss Gordon Richardson has spoken of his frustration at the council's stubbornness.

He said: "The FA and RFU were involved in talks with our MP Andrew Griffiths and the Oldfields committee about restoration of the Mount Pleasant land.

"At the meeting, the FA and RFU committed to assist the club through Sport England funding to create two pitches, one for the football and one for rugby, at Mount Pleasant.

"This generous offer was sent to Staffordshire County Council but was never taken into account and they still rejected our request for this land.

"For 20 years Oldfields Club has grown by improving its facilities without much need for council help and this ethos was to continue with the additional land.

"We are not asking the council for funding and we are trying to remove any potential cost barriers

"But this does not seem to have got us anywhere.

"If the major sports bodies of this country are willing to help us, why isn't Staffordshire County Council?"

Mount Pleasant, in Stone Road, is the only available land in Uttoxeter.

Last month, Uttoxeter MP Andrew Griffiths said his Tory colleagues at the council had made 'the wrong call' – a sentiment echoed by his Labour parliamentary opponent, Jon Wheale.

Staffordshire FA football development officer Gareth Thomas said his body was concerned about the future of sport in Uttoxeter.

He said: "This land would increase provision and that's one of our goals.

"The growth and retention of our clubs is a massive priority and we're concerned about the situation in Uttoxeter.

"With the land at Mount Pleasant, they can add new teams and get more youngsters playing football, which I think everyone agrees would be a positive move.

"Then we can start to help them access funding, in conjunction with the RFU, to develop the land and get it up to scratch."

Simon Hincks, RFU rugby development officer for Staffordshire, said: "Uttoxeter RFC has gone from having 50 youngsters playing to 150 in the space of about three weeks.

"They're now absolutely at saturation point and can't grow any further, let alone sustain what they're currently doing, unless they get more land.

"This is a very rare opportunity and, with the World Cup coming in England next autumn, I'd expect a massive surge in youngsters looking to join the club.

"If they don't have a good experience because of a lack of facilities, they'll decide against taking up the sport.

"Either that or they will be lost to clubs in Burton or Stoke-on-Trent, which is already happening.

"If the council has any concern about kids taking up sport and being part of teams, as well as getting healthy and active, it will allow some of the land to go to Uttoxeter Town FC and Uttoxeter RFU.

"If the land is secured, I know Staffordshire RFU will view Uttoxeter RFC as a key priority and funding would be sought to help set up the land for rugby use."

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