CHARD NEWS: Councillors to look again at Jocelyn Park pitch hire charges

CHARD NEWS: Councillors to look again at Jocelyn Park pitch hire charges

FOOTBALLERS are hoping that councillors will make a U-turn on their decision to increase the hire charges for the use of football pitches and changing rooms at Jocelyn Park in Chard.

Members of Chard Town Council agreed in the summer to put the charge up from £35 to £45 per game played at Jocelyn Park by teams from Chard United FC and Chard Rangers FC in the Perry Street League.

But the footballers have appealed to the council to have a rethink on its decision because it could put the future of the teams in doubt.

Steve Scriven, of Chard United FC, said: “We have used Jocelyn Park for over 20 years and are proud to call this our home pitch.

“Chard United’s membership consists of local people over three teams with a predicted income of £2,650 with a predicted expenditure for the 2017-18 period being £3,516.40. This already leaves us with a deficit of £876.40 which we will try to raise through fundraising activities.

“All of us are members of the local community. The pitch we use is a public open space categorised as a park which is available for free at all other times to members of the community. Therefore we feel that there should be no charge or at the most a nominal charge for the hire of the pitch.”CHARD NEWS: Councillors to look again at Jocelyn Park pitch hire charges

The council did work with the football teams a few years ago to get temporary much-needed changing rooms installed at Jocelyn Park for the players to use.

And Steve added: “We accept that there should be a reasonable charge for the use of the changing rooms.”

PHOTO - RIGHT: Tractor marks at Jocelyn Park in Chard.

But the football teams have had to cancel several matches over the past five years due to the condition of the pitches.

“Issues with the condition of the pitch have ranged from the length of the grass being too long to tyre tracks on the pitch from cars or motorbikes,” said Steve.

“As a result of cancelling matches we have incurred league fines which we have had to pay, even though the reason for the cancellation is not our doing.

“Prior to each match we have to remove excessive amounts of dog mess – some of which has clearly been there for several days. We’ve also had to clear litter that has been left and, on occasions, safely dispose of needles from the pitches.

“This I am sure is actually a major health and safety issue that Chard Town Council should be addressing as a matter of public safety for all users of the park.

“We also have to mark the pitches and remove all litter left after a match and take down flags and nets after matches.

“This therefore indicates that the pitch is left in a better condition than it was before we start each game with no cost to the council.”

Steve wrote to members of the council’s Guildhall and amenities committee ahead of its meeting on Monday (December 4, 2017) to outline the clubs’ grievances at the hike in hire charges and indicated that there could be an argument to suggest that the £35 a game fee was already too high.

Footballers turned up in numbers at the council meeting where Steve appealed to councillors to have a re-think and they received some outline support.

The £45 hire charge fee was agreed by the council on June 19, 2017, and cannot be reversed under the authority’s standing orders for six months which would take the date to December 20, 2017.

Councillors do, however, have the power to bring that forward if five of them sign a letter to that effect – something which Cllr Jenny Kenton said she was prepared to support.

It was agreed that councillors would do that so the situation could be discussed at the town council’s full meeting on Monday, December 18, 2017.

The move was supported by other councillors with Cllr Irene Glynn saying it was clearly a “major issue” for the clubs and Cllr Dave Bulmer said it was “reasonable for the council to reconsider the increase.”

But not everyone was happy. Cllr Cathie Morrison said: “I’m disappointed that the teams have taken a long time to get back to us. We made the decision to increase the charges in June.

“We spent £22,000 on the changing rooms for the teams a few years back – that is a lot of money for the council to spend on one group of people in the town.

“My own personal feeling is that we shouldn’t change what we decided in June.”