FOOTBALL FUNDING CRISIS UNDERLINED

The chairman of the recreation fields trust has repeated his warning that they might not be able to carry on maintaining football fields and pavilion if an appeal against the proposed phone mast for Fillace Park does not go through.

Andy Stewart was responding to comment on the Horrabridge Noticeboard on Facebook about the state of the pavilion and whether or not the parish council would be responsible for an accident.

The council devolved its involvement with the football club to the Horrabridge Recreation Fields Trust some time ago but has lately acknowledged that the trust was left in a difficult position and is trying to help find a source of grant aid – before reluctantly considering whether to allocate some of its £100,000 pot from the Walkham Meadows housing deal.

Meanwhile, there is just a glimmer of hope that the government will over-rule the Dartmoor planners’ refusal to allow a deal which would have put £20,000 in the field funds in return for a long lease for a mobile communications mast serving a networks consortium. But then the council has another tricky decision to make – whether to change its stance and back the original proposal, despite neighbours’ objections, or risk blowing the deal by holding out for the alternative site that it backed.

It looked like a viable compromise but the park authority was against any mast at all and the phones industry agency concerned, Shared Access, decided its best bet was to appeal against the first refusal.

It has declined a number of invitations to discuss the situation, but as far as Horrabridge knows, an appeal to the Secretary of State for the Environment is in progress.

Mr Stewart has been saying for some months that there is no more time for dithering.

He said today: “Let me say the whole Committee share the concern about the state of the Pavilion.

“But the Trust is permanently one unexpected expense from insolvency. We have limited income – mainly from Horrabridge Rangers – and all that income goes towards maintaining the playing fields or funding essential repairs. And even that would not be possible without the efforts of Rob Mitchelmore acting as unpaid groundsman.

“Charity status has had some unexpected consequences. We find ourselves cut out from sport-related grants because we are not a sports club, we are a management group. And because so many funds have a match-funding requirement, we’re cut out because we don’t have funds to match!

“This is one reason the Trust are so keen to see the mast proposal succeed. If the appeal is not successful, I see little prospect that anything will change to improve our funding situation.

“I must also say this, not solely on behalf of the Trust. There are far too few people willing to give their time and efforts to ensuring organisations such as this in the village thrive and succeed. I’m involved in three of those organisations, and I see the same people, from the Parish Council; the Community Association; the Cavaliers; Twinning; Horrabridge Rangers; the Church, etc, wherever we interact. So that’s got to be part of the problem. Many are prepared to stand on the sidelines and let the few bear the burden.”

                                                                                        andy stewart

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