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Over 1,000 residents oppose £2m Higham's fields sports hub - councillor claims

UKIP's Malcolm Pritchard has called a public meeting next week over the Accrington Stanley Community Trust plan

Left, Malcolm Pritchard. Right, the draft plans

A campaigner claims that more than 1,000 residents are against plans for a £2 million sports hub on playing fields.

A public meeting has been called for next week over Accrington Stanley Community Trust’s proposed (ASCT) development at Higham’s Playing Fields in Accrington.

Milnshaw UKIP councillor Malcolm Pritchard has launched a petition, signed by 770 people, calling for the fields to be ‘kept open for the residents’ and believes the park’s original deeds support their claim.

Coun Pritchard told the Observer that representatives of the council and the Trust were invited to speak at the meeting at St Joseph’s Church on Belgarth Road in Accrington on Wednesday, August 16, from 6.30pm.

However, the trust have told us they had not been made aware of the meeting and will not be attending.

The plans, which have received backing from amateur football leagues and clubs in Hyndburn, would include a large 3G pitch, an artificial cricket wicket, two grass football pitches and one grass rugby or football pitch, changing rooms, cafeteria and a car park “to ease traffic congestion on Thorneyholme Road”.

Draft plans for a £2 million community sports hub at Higham Playing Fields in Accrington.

The petition says: “For many years Highams Playing Fields has been a focal point of the community, from children using it as a base for playing games, including “jumpers for goalposts” games of football, to dog walkers, or just people enjoying the only green space in the area, it’s well used.

“The fencing off and effective “privatisation” of the field will cease all of these uses.”

Coun Pritchard said: “There’s a lot that needs looking at and that needs answers. On Facebook I’ve got another group of 300-odd people so there’s over 1,000 people who don’t want it.”

The charity has previously said that the Hub will be used by many grassroots clubs/leagues, and also for charitable projects and community organisations every evening and weekend, with free activities on the site for the community, schools and other organisations.

In a statement, Accrington Stanley Community Trust said: “We have had no contact or invitation from the organisers of the meeting at any point.

“We can confirm we WILL NOT be attending the meeting as we do not have the full sports hub plans to feed back to the public at this moment in time. Our position remains the same, once we have the full plans available, we will be holding a residents meeting to update the public and answer any questions on the proposals. This is likely to be in the next four to six weeks.

Highams Playing Fields in Accrington.

“We value the opinion of the local community and we are gathering all feedback for evaluation.”

Milnshaw Labour councillor Coun Paul Cox said the issue seemed to have divided the community, but he had “an open mind” on the best way forward.

He said: “Until the Trust bring forward the plans we don’t know what’s going to happen. Whatever we do has to be the right decision for the area. I’m going to go along to the meeting and listen to what residents have to say, the same way that I’ve listened to what Accrington Stanley Community Trust have to say.”

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