Mid and East Antrim: £0.45m pitch upgrade programme planned

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Mid and East Antrim councillors have approved a pitch upgrade programme at a cost of £450,000.

The proposal was presented to the council’s Environment and Economy Committee on Tuesday. It has been proposed that Multi-Use Games Areas (MUGAs) in Larne Town Park, Greenisland and Sunnylands estate in Carrickfergus be refurbished during 2024/25.

Initially, a MUGA pitch in Whitehead had been included in the business case but following a meeting with a Whitehead Eagles’ official, the council has decided to postpone plans to develop a pitch at Castleview amid concerns over a potential “clash with the club’s development plans”, a report to the committee said.

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The report noted that Greenisland MUGA was highlighted previously as a “top priority” for replacement.

Larne Town Park pitch. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting ServiceLarne Town Park pitch. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service
Larne Town Park pitch. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service

It said: “In 2020, Greenisland MUGA was rated average but has deteriorated since then with several dangerous splits visible in the carpet. Greenisland MUGA is the same style and size as Whitehead MUGA and for this reason, it is proposed as the second MUGA to be delivered within the programme.

“Being of similar size and style of MUGA as Whitehead, Greenisland MUGA could be refurbished at an approximate cost of £121,000.”

Ruled Out

Refurbishment of the council-owned tennis courts in Whitehead was ruled out due to cost.

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The committee was told new MUGAs have been completed in Portglenone and Glynn, outside Larne. Upgrades are due to be completed in Carnlough and at Carrickfergs Amphitheatre where the surface will be upgraded from 2G to 3G.

In 2020, a review was carried out to assess the condition of council’s 20 MUGAs and synthetic games pitches. The pitch at Larne Town Park was found to be “in very poor condition”. Those found to be in “poor condition” were Whitehead; Whitehead tennis courts; Sunnylands; Woodburn; Windmill, Carrickfergus; Carnlough; Ferris Park, Larne and Clough.

The report noted Whitehead MUGA has been closed since 2023 after the playing surface and fencing were found to “pose a high risk of injury due to serious disrepair”.

Speaking at the meeting, Knockagh Independent Councillor Bobby Hadden said a carpet is required “urgently” at the Greenisland pitch and proposed approving the revised business case, seconded by Knockagh DUP Cllr Peter Johnston.

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CllrJohnston said: “I welcome this investment for the MUGA in Greenisland. It is definitely in need of repair. It is one of the few recreational facilities for the Greenisland estate.”

Larne Lough DUP Cllr Gregg McKeen commented: “I want to ensure Whitehead is not forgotten about. I want an assurance that Whitehead is top of the list.”

Commenting in a social media post after the meeting, Cllr Hadden said: “I am delighted to advise that the Multi Use Games Area at Greenisland will be refurbished.

“This will see significant funding being put into the upgrade of the MUGA and we look forward to its completion and more importantly, it being enjoyed by the kids.”

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Also commenting online, Cllr Johnston said: “ Myself, Bobby Hadden and Alderman Andrew Wilson had a site visit following a meeting in Greenisland and at long last, we will now see some investment.”

In an online post about the condition of the MUGA at Larne Town Park, Coast Road DUP Cllr Andrew Clarke commented: “Council has found it is in ‘very poor condition’. Pleased to say it will now be upgraded.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter