Accrington Stanley Community Trust was blocked from setting up a £2 million sports hub next to the Wham Stadium after one of the site tenants refused, it has been revealed.
Trust bosses told a public meeting that they tried unsuccessfully to persuade Accrington Girls and Ladies FC to relinquish their long tenancy on land off Livingstone Road.
It comes after the Trust last month unveiled plans to redevelop Higham’s Playing Fields, which have met with a campaign of opposition from residents despite backing from amateur football leagues and Hyndburn council.
Martin Fearon, community trust manager, said they were forced to look at the ‘only other alternative site’ at Higham’s after the football club - now known as Accrington Community FC - refused their offer.
At the meeting in Accrington Stanley’s Sports Bar, Mr Fearon told residents: “We offered all three tenants 50 years free use of the facilities. To take this proposal to the council all three tenants had to agree.
“[Accrington Community FC] got the same offer of 50 years free use and support with coaches, volunteers and training sessions. However, they did not want to accept the proposal, for whatever reason. That’s up to them. At the end of the day we spent 12 months offering all sorts of incentives to try and work with them but they didn’t want to agree to it so we stopped negotiations on October 2016.”
Mr Fearon added: “We have assessed numerous sites in the area and they are the only two that were really feasible.”
In a statement, John Duckworth, chairman of Accrington Sports and Football Club, said: “During protracted discussions with the Sports Trust, our club made its minimum requirements quite clear. It was also important that at all times we looked after the best interests of the children and young adults who form the heart of our club.
“Eventually and reluctantly, our club came to the conclusion that in the short term, during the lengthy redevelopment of Livingstone Road, the temporary relocation to the Higham Playing Fields would have provided unsuitable accommodation for the club’s six football teams.
"In the long term, the Trust was unable to guarantee that our club would still have two full-size grass pitches which we enjoy at the present time. However, we did send our own proposal to the Trust but the day after it was received, we were informed that the Trust had withdrawn their interest in the Livingstone Road site.”
A planning application has now been officially submitted to the council and - if approved - the development would take around six months to complete.
Stanley set to train in Ribble Valley
Accrington Stanley are set to build a new first team training complex and academy OUTSIDE the borough, club bosses have revealed.
Reds bosses have denied claims that a proposed £2m Higham’s Playing Fields sports hub will be used for the club’s players and have confirmed they are in talks to create a dedicated facility in the Ribble Valley.
David Burgess, managing director of Accrington Stanley, told the public meeting at Stanley’s Sports Bar: “I can categorically state that Accrington Stanley are looking outside the borough for a new training ground. We are now at the stage where there are surveys being at the proposed site that we are looking at. It’s just within the Ribble Valley boundary.
“I wouldn’t say that we are in an advanced position but we are now in a position where we are having surveys done on a piece of land that will become the Accrington Stanley academy and first team training facility.
“I can categorically state that this facility will not be used for Accrington Stanley first team training. What I will say is that if there’s opportunity from time to time to hire the facility we may very well at the odd time look at doing that.”
The Save Higham’s Playing Fields campaign group held another public meeting in St Joseph’s Church Hall on Belgarth Road in Accrington on Thursday, October 19.