'We really love these fields and disagree with what the council is doing': community unites to save Hough End playing fields
- City council plan to redevelop Hough End Playing fields with 3G pitches and sport and leisure facilities
- Community group formed in opposition to the plan
- Football team using pitches says plans could lead to financial difficulties
Hough End playing fields is enjoyed by much of Chorlton, Withington and other communities in south Manchester.
From bird watchers to aspiring footballers many gather to enjoy the ancient woodlands and the 28 football pitches on offer at Hough End.
However, residents have cried foul after their beloved fields came under threat from a council development plan.
Save Hough End Playing Fields, a community group against the development, continues to rally against the proposed council plans to redevelop the site
The council plans were for the erection of a two-storey building which would form sports field changing rooms, café facilities, training rooms, 3G football turf pitches and associated floodlighting.
Following the demolition of an existing building on site, a gym space is also planned. The development will also see new fencing together with the development of a new car park and overflow car park.
These plans were advertised in April but then withdrawn in July.
Nevertheless, the Save Hough End campaigners expect new plans to be submitted before December.
Alexandria told NQ about the group and its opposition to the development.
“Someone made a Facebook group because there was no awareness of what was happening,” she said.
“Originally only 53 letters were sent out to the local community. Obviously, this space is used by a lot more people than that. Even houses in the immediate vicinity, across the road from the fields weren’t informed.
“We all really love these fields and really care about these fields and disagree with what the council is doing.”
In a 2018/19 playing pitch strategy report, the council used FA affiliation data to determine whether there was enough 3G football pitch provision in the city.
The data suggests there are currently 902 teams: based on the FA training ratio model this equates to a requirement for 24 full-sized 3G football pitches, meaning a shortfall of 3G football pitches.
Alexandria said council plans to build football pitches on the site contradicts its own strategy reports.
She said: “We’re campaigning against the 3G pitches because by Manchester city council's own playing pitch strategy reports in recent years there’s too many 3G pitches anyway.
"Only in 2019 there was planning permission refused on Platt Fields park for 3G pitches because they said there was adequate or too much provision of 3G pitches in the local area.”
Dawn Court United are a football club founded by a mixture of friends from university and members of the local community.
The team play home fixtures at Hough End are opposed to the development.
Chairman and current captain United, Sam Chatterton says of the plans: “I believe that if this proposed development was to go ahead, it would hinder our growth as a football club.
"We established Dawn Court United as a club that all our friends can be involved in, come down on a Sunday and kick a ball around.
"The costs of running a club are fairly high and these proposed developments would put strain on a team that’s funded by the players.
“The demographic around Hough End is students or working class people. Therefore, it makes little sense to me as to why they’d be wanting to market more expensive and scare pitches to lower income individuals.”
When considering the development of the 3G pitches, cost of hire and availability of usage are significant concerns for campaigners compared with what the council currently charges.
NQ investigated the cost to hire an 11-a-side 3G pitch at Manchester Academy and Platt Lane Sports Complex as well as the 7-a-side cost at Manchester Central Powerleague.
Manchester Academy has an hourly rate of £60 for its 3G pitch which would mean a two-hour booking if used for a 90 minute match by a local club.
An 11-a-side floodlit pitch at Platt Lane Sports Complex costs £77 at peak times, although the length of booking is not specified on the website.
Powerleague Central in Ardwick charge £75 per hour for a 7-a-side 3G pitch.
All charges are significantly higher than the cost of hiring grass pitches at Hough End Playing Fields which is the concern for local clubs such as Dawn Court United.
In addition to this, Save Hough End Playing Fields are concerned about the reduction of grass pitches with the creation of 3G pitches on the site.
They argue that free use of local playing fields for the community could be impacted, in addition to local clubs being priced out.
Alexandria comments: “Plans from last year would see the provision of two 3G pitches reduce the overall provision of playing pitches down from 28 to 14. That’s how much space they’d take up.”
A substantial decline in the number of available pitches.
Save Hough End Playing Fields are also concerned that wildlife on the site may be endangered with the development.
The site is home to an ancient woodland with tress over 300 years old. Birds such as kingfishers and other animals inhabit Hough End.
However, in the council's most recent wildlife survey they concluded that the site was not a site of interest.
Save Hough End Playing Fields argue this is inaccurate because the survey was taken in March last year, a time when much of the wildlife is hibernating or not very active.
Campaigners for Hough End are now a dedicated community group who organise family-friendly events every other Sunday.
For Halloween the group organised a Pumpkin Walk which included a short self-guided walk from the leisure centre up to Mauldeth Road decorated with pumpkins and skeletons.