Pitch up and play

A school's games facilities have been opened up for use by local sports groups in the evenings and on Saturdays .

Tuesday, 25th April 2017, 12:33 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:24 pm
Pupils returning to Balshaws after the summer break this month are to benefit from a new Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) which opened just before the holidays. The new facility is a 3G synthetic turf and will allow for multiple sports to be played even in poor weather conditions. It was introduced to combat drainage issues at the school. Members of the public objected to the plans when they were submitted to the council a few months ago, citing noise concerns, but staff at the Church Road school have insisted the pitches will only be used during term time. It was officially opened by County Councillor Matthew Tomlinson, who is a former governor and parent at the school. There was a variety of guests including neighbours of the school, the Balshaws Association which raised £35,000 towards the facility, members of the councils planning committee and former Balshavians. Head of PE Mark Davidson said that he was delighted with the new facilities and believes that the pupils will have a lot more opportunities open

The school says it is “thrilled” to be able to open up the facilties to local groups, and says hundreds of young people from grassroots sports clubs will benefit from the decision.

But the move has not been welcomed by people living near the school, who say their concerns have been ignored.

Balshaws said its parents, pupils, staff and governors were delighted that they will able to begin working with grassroots clubs and sports groups, enabling hundreds of young people in South Ribble to have access to high quality facilities.

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Headteacher Steven Haycocks said: “I am thrilled that at last we can make use of a great facility that local youth rugby and football clubs have been in desperate for the need of for so long.

“There are not enough facilities to meet the demand for these groups.

“It has always felt like a terrible waste to have a facility paid for by the taxpayer on publically owned land lie unused when there is such a great need to provide young people with the opportunity for organised sports coaching.

“We look forward to working with local community groups who are providing young people with such great opportunities to get involved with sport.”

The synthetic hockey and football pitches opened two years ago, inititally for use by school pupils only.

The opening hours were restricted to 8am to 6pm on weekdays, with no weekend use. Now the pitches can be used from 8am to 9pm on week days, from 8am to 6pm on Saturdays and will remain closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

There are no restrictions to the use of the remaining 20 acres of playing fields.

However, one Church Road resident, who asked not to be named, said: “While the planning committee’s decision was better than feared, especially regarding weekends and bank holidays, we still have concerns over unsupervised access after dark to school premises and therefore neighbouring properties.

“We understood from the previous headteacher at a public meeting this wasn’t about public use – it was for pupils at the school, and that wasn’t likely to change.

“But neighbours were largely ignored this time, with parents of pupils called on to support the application, even though the vast majority would be unaffected by increased and wider use.

“How much public interest there is in using the pitches is debatable.

“Aren’t there more than enough nearby? Those at Runshaw College, Thurston Road and Buckshaw Village are all easily within reach.”