North Hertfordshire College blows time on evening footballers

Football teams playing on the sand turf at the Centre for the Arts in Hitchin have been left homeles

Football teams playing on the sand turf at the Centre for the Arts in Hitchin have been left homeless after a planning inspectorate ruled the college was not allowed to stay open until 10pm - Credit: Archant

The future of a long-running football group is in doubt after an evening ban was imposed on a college’s all-weather pitch.

The decision by a government planning inspectorate means from this week people who use the pitch at North Hertfordshire College’s Centre for the Arts in Hitchin will have to find an alterative venue to play sport after 8pm.

The college had asked for permission to keep the facility at Willian Road open until 10pm after residents complained of noise, but this was denied.

Jess Unwin, who plays on the pitch, said: “This decision has overnight meant that hundreds of people – of all ages – who are trying to do the right thing by keeping fit through sport are now denied access to a community facility at the very time they are most able to use those facilities. “Our regular Thursday night game from 9pm to 10pm is enjoyed by a group of mixed ages, ranging from 13 to 48. Everyone enjoys it, everyone behaves impeccably and afterwards everyone goes home without causing any disruption to residents who neighbour the college site.”

Mr Unwin added that the decision was a “misguided course of action that does more harm than good” and “favours the concerns of a selfish minority”.

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Shaun Rowland, who has run the Thursday night sessions for 20 years, said: “I am incensed by this decision. We are well away from the residents, we play our game and leave. We do not cause a disturbance and the use of the pitch is affordable for everyone.

“The crazy situation is that we are allowed to play on the grass between the pitch and the residents until 10pm but not on the pitch itself.”

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Shaun, who lives in Millard Way, said he will not be able to carry on running the football sessions on Thursday nights and that moving to another facility would be too expensive for some players.

The college said: “It is with regret that at a recent planning inspectorate appeal meeting, it was ruled that the all-weather pitch at our Hitchin campus must no longer operate past 8pm.

“We know this ruling has disappointed many members of the community who have enjoyed using this facility in the evening for nearly 40 years.”

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