Goal in sight for £4m football HQ

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New ‘community hub’ plan for school playing fields

A £4 MILLION project to create a “sporting and community hub” for south east Sheffield is being prepared for kick-off.

The Sheffield and Hallamshire County Football Association has submitted plans to the council to redevelop the former Westfield School playing fields after four years of discussions and consultations.

Lined up are a floodlit artificial turf pitch, eight floodlit five-a-side pitches and a pavilion with changing rooms, a Fitness Unlimited gym, studio, physiotherapy clinic, training rooms and space for community groups as well as offices for the headquarters of Sheffield and Hallamshire. It is also intended to upgrade grass pitches for football and rugby.

The SHCFA sees the proposed Westfield Community Football Centre giving a major boost to local sport, increasing participation, promoting a healthier lifestyle and civic pride and helping to reduce crime by “using the power of football to build a better future”.

Chief executive James Hope-Gill said: “The creation of this community sporting hub will put sport at the heart of the community in south east Sheffield and use sport as a tool for community regeneration.

“Football has significant potential to be used as a catalyst to encourage physical activity and health living for all the community across a wide range of programmes, some of which won’t be directly related to football.”

Currently the 28 acre site, which used to accommodate the old school sports centre, has eight poorly drained and maintained pitches with vandalised changing facilities used by about 20 weekend football and rugby union teams.

The vision is for a seven-day-a-week development and community programme for 11-a-side, nine-a-side and five-a-side matches, rugby union teams training and matches, jogging, cycling and archery clubs. The Fitness Unlimited gym would be built and managed by Sheffield International Venues.

The SHCFA would use the facilities as a focus for the education, training and development of coaches and referees and for tournaments and other matches.

At present, the local FA hires grounds and facilities around the region, stretching as far as Huddersfield and Worksop, and some of this would continue to ensure that not everything is based in Sheffield.

Costs are due to be met by the sale of Sheffield and Hallamshire’s current premises in Cornish Place and contributions from the Football Association, the Football Foundation, Sport England and the Rugby Football Union.

Details of the scheme, including a new access road off Moss Way and a 70-space car park, are being assessed by the council, which will take into account community reaction.

The SHCFA says it has been working closely with the Westfield community, including Mosborough Miners Welfare, and has highlighted issues including rising obesity in young people, tackling anti-social behaviour and the fear of crime, improving educational standards and the development of closer communities.

Mr Hope-Gill said: “It is essential the site becomes the hub of the community not only for footballing activities but also by groups who are not involved in football, both young and old.”

Arnie Hattersley, of Mosborough Miners Welfare, said: “The vision for the centre is to provide a sport facility for the whole community and at the same time use sport to deliver wider social outcomes of inclusion, crime reduction, health improvement, educational attainment and civic pride for residents, utilising the power of sport to build a better future.”

Building is scheduled to start next year once funding and planning timescales are finalised with a view to the centre opening in 2013.