The planners’ decision to turn down a £200,000 3G all-weather pitch project at Drumanphy Road near Scotch Street has sparked a furious reaction.
The application for the full-size pitch – complete with changing rooms, car parking and footlights – was submitted by Alan Robinson, well-known in football and coaching circles.
And even though nobody from the local community has lodged a single objection to the plan, the planners have responded with a refusal – based mainly on the pretext that it would occupy “the best and most versatile agricultural land” and that it is not within a recognised settlement.
Sydney Anderson MLA and Craigavon councillor Johnny Buckley have made a number of representations on behalf of Mr Robinson, who has a distinguished background in football – he played for Portadown under Gibby Mackenzie and is a committee member at Loughgall Football Club.
Said Mr Robinson, “Raymond Nesbitt and I started the Loughgall youth scheme in 2000 with one team. Now we have 14 teams and this would be ideal as a coaching base. We also want to accommodate church outreach in the summer and the local community. I remain hopeful and am in negotiations with the planners.”
The second ‘refusal’ was submitted at Monday night’s borough council meeting and it was again deferred by the planers at the request of councillors. But Mr Anderson and Mr Buckley have both concluded, “It would be best to leave it until next April until the new ABC Council takes over, as it will have planning powers.”
Mr Anderson stated, “There are many inconsistencies here. I know that a pitch in the rural area around Markethill is in full swing, and I have also heard of one near Templepatrick.
“We also hear regularly that the rural community must diversify to survive and some have gone in the direction of golf courses and other recreational amenities. So why not a 3G pitch? After all, we hear regularly about farm diversification schemes.”
Mr Buckley said that the pitch project was a private enterprise and should receive full support. “I know there are one or two sensitivities surrounding it,” he added. “But the bottom line is that there hasn’t been a single objection, and this would certainly be an attraction for young people and a real amenity in the countryside.
“It seems that everything is provided for towns and villages, but this facility would serve a lively rural area, and an Eden Villa type facility would be a real asset. The project would also have adequate car parking and we believe it is wrong to turn it down.
“I am a member of the new ABC Council and the best way forward would be to have another look at it after April.”