Four Mid and East Antrim locations identified for new pitches at cost of £3.2m
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A review of pitch facilities in the borough has been carried out as the council considers future provision. Currently, there are 55 grass soccer pitches, 11 Gaelic pitches and 13 rugby pitches. There are 14 acres of synthetic turf. These figures do not include school facilities.
The shortfall has been measured using a recommended ‘Fields in Trust Six acre Standard’.
Councillors were told that by March 2024, the borough council will have invested almost £4.3m since 2015 in improving grass pitches, delivering and upgrading 3G and synthetic pitches and assisting delivery in the education sector.
These include a new 3G pitch in Greenisland with the club securing £100k funding. The council provided £50k funding to help enable provision of a new pitch at Carrickfergus Grammar School.
Recently, Carrickfergus Castle Councillor Cheryl Brownlee, now an East Antrim DUP MLA, announced the local authority has agreed to upgrade a synthetic pitch at the Amphitheatre leisure centre in Carrick to 3G at a cost of £250k expected to be progressed before the end of next March.
Commenting on the development, the former councillor said: “The significant investment will see the transformation of the current astro-turf pitch at Carrickfergus Amphitheatre upgraded to a new 3G pitch which will allow increased match and training capacity, provide an all-weather surface, and ultimately benefit the local clubs, schools, and community groups in the area.”
According to a report published by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, MEA had a deficit of 72,032 hours of unmet demand as it emerged that one club in the borough has spent £40k per annum on using a 3G pitch outside the borough.
Planning permission was given recently for a new MUGA at Gortgole Road in Portglenone at a cost of approximately £420k. It was also reported the local authority has secured external funding to upgrade the existing MUGA in Carnlough. The report also stated: “Whitehead is an area with minimal provision which should be prioritised.”
It has been proposed that budgeting be considered for four new pitches at a cost of £3.2m in Whitehead, Carrickfergus, Larne coast area and Ballymena Showgrounds.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter