'No action' after sports pavilions demolished

Outside The Grange Pavilion in Letchworth Garden City

The Grange Pavilion in Letchworth, opened in 2011 - Credit: Google Maps

A football league chairman campaigning for years for a council to replace demolished sports pavilions in Hitchin and Letchworth has spoken of his frustration over "lots of promises but no action", and the battle to retain players as a result.

Alan Lowe, chairman of Hitchin Sunday Football League, says North Herts District Council promised in 2001 to ditch plans to close six pavilions - which provided players' changing facilities - after then Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey, intervened.

He says the council reneged on that promise, closing three pavilions in Hitchin - at St John's Road, Cadwell Lane and Walsworth Common - and three in Letchworth - at Baldock Road, The Creamery and The Grange.

"Against these demolitions, one new pavilion - at The Grange - opened in 2011, following 10 years of meetings between myself and NHDC," Alan said. "It stands as a monument to what can be achieved by people working together toward a common objective."

Alan says NHDC withdrew support for a new Baldock Road pavilion, and its promise in 2014 to build a pavilion on Walsworth Common has seen no progress.

He said: "They make a lot of promises, but there's no action.

"Players have no changing facilities and no toilets.

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"We have 870 players registered, but it's a hard job to keep their support, as we keep saying we are working towards the pavilions."

NHDC says it only owns five of the six sites, with Baldock Road owned by Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation.

Councillor Steve Jarvis, executive member for leisure, said: “Unfortunately, the previous administration at the council implemented a programme of closing and demolishing sports pavilions, leaving the district with many fewer than are required.

"The cost of replacing all these buildings is simply not affordable at the current time.

“Our intention is to have a second sports hub at Walsworth Common, having invested £130k in new football pitches there. The building will be funded by a Section 106 agreement and we will start work on it as soon as the funds from local housing developments are available."

Karl Lingham, chief executive of Hertfordshire Football Association, said: "We stand ready to assist in accessing significant funding available from the Football Foundation."