Row over sports club

PUBLISHED: 11:45 22 March 2007 | UPDATED: 11:43 06 May 2010

L-R Sports and Recreation Club vice-chairman Bernie Dean, fundraising manager Val Agnew and club chairman Dave Barber

L-R Sports and Recreation Club vice-chairman Bernie Dean, fundraising manager Val Agnew and club chairman Dave Barber

A SPORTS and entertainment venue could be replaced by a village hall and council offices in a controversial move by a parish council. And, according to one sports club member, the villagers will pay for it in more ways than one. Walkern Parish Council ha

A SPORTS and entertainment venue could be replaced by a village hall and council offices in a controversial move by a parish council.

And, according to one sports club member, the villagers will pay for it in more ways than one.

Walkern Parish Council has decided not to renew the lease of Walkern Sports and Recreation Ground.

The decision will mean sports groups will have to disband as they will have no facilities or grounds and over 300 members will be left without a club.

The club has also been the venue for Walkern Music, the longest-running rhythm and blues club in Hertfordshire, for more than 20 years.

Groups that use the grounds include Stevenage Borough Vixens FC, Walkern Vets FC, a pigeon club, Walkern Cricket Club and local pensioner groups.

Val Agnew, development manager for Stevenage Borough Vixens, said: "The clubhouse itself has been built and maintained at no cost to locals for many years.

"The local parish council is very likely to raise council tax as a means of keeping the building and facilities in use, but have not made any plans available."

A meeting has been arranged at the ground for this Sunday, March 25, at 4pm after the Walkern Sports and Recreation Ground committee held a vote to begin legal action to renew the lease and the Vixens delivered flyers to warn the villagers.

The committee had plans to extend facilities for use for sports and recreation and to accommodate facilities for local youths, working in conjunction with police youth services.

But it now faces the prospect of scrapping the plans.

The Vixens were also going through the process of applying for a £50,000 grant to improve sports facilities.

But they won't be able to continue to the next stage of the process as they need to show a lease for at least five years.

Chairman of Walkern Parish Council, Adrian Vickers, confirmed that the venue was to be developed into a village hall as the school hall, previously used for this purpose, has recently been condemned.

But he thought that sports groups may continue to still use the grounds.

He said: "We hope they're going to continue. The only difference is they won't have a lease, they will have to rent."

But Dave Barber, chairman of Walkern Sports and Recreation Ground, emphasised that they do not have the funds to do this.

He said: "We have other groups prepared to put money in as well, but there's no security if there's no lease."

Cllr Vickers also said that they had held two public meetings and that during the first meeting there had been no objections to the village hall and at the second there were only a few.

But Mr Barber said villagers had not been aware of the meetings and that the sports club was not seen as important by older parish council members.

He said: "At the parish council meeting there were seven or eight people there, but we have hundreds of members of the club."

He added: "This goes against the reasons the land was left to the village in the first place.

"The parish council want to go their own way, to take control of it and use it for their own devices."

Michael Jackson of Walkern Music, said: "I will be very disappointed if the parish council get their own way.

"They're refusing to even review it."

He said Walkern Music contributes to the running of Walkern Sports Club and that the future of the music centre looks grim.


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