Chard Town life member talks of 30 years of hurt

BRIAN Beer

BRIAN Beer

First published in News

THIS week we’re giving Chard Town FC’s Brian Beer the chance to respond to concerns and issues arising from the Mactaggart and Mickel application for homes and a new ground for the club.

Here's what Mr Beer had to say ...

"Chard Town FC has investigated possible relocation sites for 30 years.

At the recent consultation meetings Mactaggart and Mickel presented at the town hall about the Mount Hindrance proposal, I was asked many times: “Why and have you investigated other areas.”

Firstly, the Zembard Lane ground does not meet grading requirements the Football Association sets out. The slope on the ground is far in excess and cannot be rectified due to engineering difficulties. The actual size of the ground is at its very minimum and therefore gives very little room for development. Parking space is limited and the clubroom will need major work sooner rather than later. Some work has been carried out to meet some of the grading requirements such as the updated floodlights and the provision of new dugouts etc.

The present situation, even with these improvements, will not permit the club to be promoted to the Premier Division of the League and should it be relegated may not be able to regain its membership of the League. The club plays in the FA Cup and FA Vase, both national competitions, but this participation could very well be in jeopardy because of the sloping pitch. Four teams use the ground – the first team in the Toolstation Western League Division 1; Reserves – Devon and Exeter League Division 1; Under-18s – Somerset Midweek Floodlight League; Under-16s – Yeovil and District Youth League. Plus training, it is far too many teams on one ground. The club has had many other youth teams but because of lack of grounds in the town they have fallen by the wayside or moved to play in adjoining village grounds.

Some years back, through the late Past President Len Fisher, two grounds were made available at Windwhistle Golf Club. To facilitate acceptable dressing rooms on the site, the golf club submitted a planning application for portable dressing rooms and toilets. But an objection arising from a local parish council caused the application to be withdrawn and subsequently football grounds for the club’s youth to be lost. The club’s relocation is also desired to provide more pitches for the youth of the town and club facilities to be used by the wider community.

In the early 1990s, the owners of Dening Field submitted proposals to build a supermarket etc on the site and for the three sports clubs to be relocated to new facilities. The development would have revitalised the town centre retail area. I felt it had more positives than negatives but the town council and planners at the time felt it was not appropriate for Chard.

Has the club investigated other sites? ‘Yes’, over many years, with Len Fisher’s help. Touches site – now the Nature Reserve, formerly owned by Len Fisher where local sides played football for years. Len later dedicated the site to local authority for sport and recreation, only for it to be made into a nature reserve. Therefore Touches was a no go.

Guppys Bridge site – through Len’s connections this site was identified and plans draw up. Somerset Highways Department informed the club through its architect that it would oppose the proposal as there was no bus route to the site and the road was too narrow. Furthermore, at a meeting with the football club’s consultants, Sports Solutions GB, when the proposals were presented it was revealed that a district council officer had informed the interested parties that he would object due to dormice possibly being on the site. Therefore, another ‘no go’.

Officers and Area West members then advised the club to consider Snowden Park, which has been dedicated by the landowner for sport and recreation. This was doomed to failure due to possible objections from the residents’ association at Mitchell Gardens. Forton Road site – a local landowner was willing to consider the purchase from his farming business of a very useful parcel of land for the club. Sports Solutions GB, on behalf of the club, made enquiries via the local authority about its possible use for football grounds, only for the highways department to inform them they would require the club to widen the road from Holbeare to the site adjoining Forton Village. This would not therefore be cost effective and again a no-go. Over the years the club has expressed many concerns to planners at the district council about the lack of sports grounds in Chard and Len Fisher and myself have attended local council meetings like two ‘grumpy old men’ trying to put over the case. It has been very frustrating with so many stumbling blocks.

Many people involved with the club have worked voluntarily and tirelessly to provide young people with an active life, in the club’s case, football. I can remember Dr A.E. Glanvill (snr) who was on Chard Borough Council and a former Mayor of the Town, he was also president of Chard Town FC Supporters’ Club and was always involved in the club in those days. I can fully understand the concerns of the residents of Cuttifords Door, I was brought up there along with my late sister and brother. We all went to school from there and I spent the early part of my married life there. Both my late sister, brother and my son were born at Cuttifords Door.

No one should be so naive to understand that some sort of development, in some form, will take place at Mount Hindrance in the future. All of Glynswood, Grange Park, Henson Park and the like were green fields just after the Second World War. Mention has been made of the key site to the east of Chard. This was put to the club some years back. There has been so much dilly-dallying over this for years and one wonders when it can be delivered. It should be noted that under the recent regeneration plans the relocation of Chard Town FC is included. A very positive way forward now exists that could afford the club its much-needed new home. I hope the local planning authority will support the proposals in whatever form to bring a satisfactory conclusion for all concerned."

BRIAN BEER

Life Member past secretary/chairman Chard Town FC, president Toolstation Western League, life member/council member Somerset FA

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