WHISTON JUNIORS: Knowsley Council plans investment to help repair flood damage to pitches
Steven Gerrard’s junior football club will receive council funding to repair its pitches after bad weather left them almost completely underwater.
Whiston Juniors FC had launched a crowdfunding campaign earlier this month after the nearby Mellor Pond overflowed, flooding its pitches and leaving them completely unplayable.
But now Knowsley Council has said it will pay for much-needed drainage work on the pitches to ensure they can be used once the national lockdown ends.
The move was welcomed by the club, where Steven Gerrard played as a child, with one of the coaches, Chris Hunt, saying: “We really are so thankful for all the help and support received.”
As well as paying for drainage works, the council has said it also intends to take back the lease on the pitches from Whiston Town Council next April.
While Knowsley Council owns the land, it has leased the pitches to the town council since 1993, with the town council then paying Knowsley Council to maintain them.
Cllr Sandra Gaffney, chair of Whiston Town Council, said: “I warmly welcome Knowsley Council finally taking responsibility for the land that they own. This site was leased to Whiston Town Council in 1993 and KMBC have shown little interest since.
“Knowsley Council originally provided some groundskeeping support for these sites but started billing the town council for this service in 2014, meaning Whiston residents were paying far more for the same services provided in other parts of the borough.
“Given Knowsley Council’s history of releasing green spaces for housing developments, I can understand some residents may be concerned by this move.
“We have been assured that this land will continue to be used as a playing field for Whiston Juniors Football Club and that a significant financial investment will be allocated, we will continue to monitor the situation to ensure Knowsley Council don’t renege on their promise.”
Knowsley Council had previously attempted to vary the lease slightly to allow the junction between Lickers Lane and Windy Arbor Road to be widened as part of the garden village project, but this move had been resisted by Whiston Town Council.
By taking back the lease entirely, Knowsley Council said it will be able to work directly with Whiston Juniors to coordinate the investment of the £1m it expects to raise from developers working on the neighbouring Halsnead Garden Village site for pitch improvements.
Knowsley Council leader Graham Morgan said: “Knowsley Council appreciates how important it is to keep the site well maintained and invest [in] its future. This will allow local young people to continue to use these valuable facilities.
“We are currently working with private sector partners to deliver Halsnead Garden Village, located adjacent to the fields used by Whiston Juniors.
“Halsnead Garden Village will create a new community in Whiston and include 1600 new homes, 22 hectares of employment land and a country park. Importantly, as a result of this project, developers have committed to investing in local facilities – a key part of that being the enhancement of green and recreational spaces.
“We want to harness that investment to secure improvements and upgrades to the facilities Whiston Juniors use. The club is such an important part of the local community that it seems only right to use this new investment for the benefit of current families and young people.”
However, the exact amount that developers will make available for investment in the Whiston Juniors pitches is yet to be determined.
Negotiations remain ongoing with the developers regarding the exact terms of the agreements that will secure the investment, along with even more money for local schools, health services and highway improvements.
Words: Chris McKeon, Local Democracy Reporter
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