Home   Hadleigh   Article

Subscribe Now

Hadleigh Town Council raise environmental and financial fears over £850k sports pitch at Layham Road Sports Ground





Councillors are concerned about the environmental and financial implications of a planned football pitch, which is expected to cost around £850,000.

Three councillors at Hadleigh Town Council are worried that a planned third generation (3G) football pitch at a sports ground off Layham Road will cost the town financially and environmentally, while only benefitting a few people.

A draft business plan of August 2022 estimated the pitch cost to be £850,000, of which the Football Foundation stated it would probably pay 60 to 70 per cent with a strong grant offer.

A new football pitch is planned for Layham Road Sports Ground - but councillors have raised concerns. Picture: Angela Wiltshire
A new football pitch is planned for Layham Road Sports Ground - but councillors have raised concerns. Picture: Angela Wiltshire

The plan proposes applying to the Rugby Football Union for £50,000, which will cover a ‘shock layer’ in the pitch – important for rugby matches.

It also proposes applying for £100,000 from Babergh District Council’s community infrastructure levy (CIL) pot, which is made up of money provided by developers in the area.

That would leave £105,000 for the council to find in the best-case scenario.

The council are concerned the pitch could lead to microplastic pollution in the nearby River Brett. Picture: Angela Wiltshire
The council are concerned the pitch could lead to microplastic pollution in the nearby River Brett. Picture: Angela Wiltshire

Cllr Andrew Knock said: “I am not convinced that the numbers add up when you scrutinise the business case.

“There is not enough detail about where we will find the money to meet the shortfall between the Football Foundation’s offer and the actual cost.

“Where we can estimate a range for how much a loan would cost us, this has not been factored in.

“Even without all the numbers being made available it’s looking like a lot of money for a specialised facility which will benefit, at most, only five per cent of Hadleigh’s people.

Councillors Andrew Knock, Huw Roberts and Angela Wiltshire at Layham Road Sports Ground. Picture: Angela Wiltshire
Councillors Andrew Knock, Huw Roberts and Angela Wiltshire at Layham Road Sports Ground. Picture: Angela Wiltshire

“This is a concern when you consider that the football and rugby clubs will be the main users of the artificial pitch by far, and yet they can both leave the council repaying a loan, maintaining the pitch surface and disposing of tons of plastic at the end of its life.”

The councillors are also worried about whether the Football Foundation and the council will decide to use an alternative material to rubber crumb for the pitch. Rubber crumb contains microplastics, which do not biodegrade.

The Football Foundation has used rubber crumb for most of the pitches it has supported and has expressed concerns about other materials as they haven’t been tested in this country.

Councillor Andrew Knock at the sports ground. Picture: Angela Wiltshire
Councillor Andrew Knock at the sports ground. Picture: Angela Wiltshire

A Football Foundation representative said alternative materials might be considered if deemed necessary but stated none will perform as well as rubber crumb, the standard infill for 3G pitches.

The council passed a resolution in June to use an organic alternative to rubber crumb, but in August voted against a resolution that would have made using an alternative to rubber crumb a requirement in the Football Foundation contract.

According to the councillors, this leaves June’s resolution vulnerable to being overturned.

Councillor Huw Roberts at the sports pitch. Picture: Angela Wiltshire
Councillor Huw Roberts at the sports pitch. Picture: Angela Wiltshire

The intended site of the pitch is adjacent to the River Brett, so use of rubber crumb would be likely to cause microplastic pollution in the river.

Cllr Huw Roberts said: “We must avoid installing a source of microplastic pollution, especially near our river.

“We are in the middle of a massive artificial pitch building programme nationwide, driven by the availability of huge grants. Almost all these pitches use substances that the EU seems about to ban – with good reason.

It’s national environmental disaster happening under our noses. Councils need to be more aware of what they are signing up for.

“It is worrying that no one involved in the project appeared to consider the environmental impact until I raised it. The council was blinkered, too focused on the supposed benefit to the clubs.

“Members of the public in Hadleigh have expressed their concern, including members of the local anglers’ group and the local environmental group.”

According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), each year around 42,000 tonnes of microplastics end up in the environment when products containing them are used.

In 2019, the ECHA proposed restricting microplastics. This included a suggestion to ban placing microplastic infill for sports surfaces for either six years or for a transitional period of three years.

ECHA proposals influenced a draft regulation published by the European Commission, which is to be voted on by EU member states.

According to the three councillors, creating a 3G pitch at Layham Road Sports Ground would make the area less accessible for the public, particularly during evenings and weekends when Hadleigh United (HUFC) will be the main user.

A ‘vision document’ for the pitch by Hadleigh Town Council stated it would be intended for community use, and that it is needed as HUFC has spent years struggling to find sufficient pitch capacity.

Cllr Angela Wiltshire said: “The removal of a beautiful, green space – an irreplaceable resource for people, animals, birds and insects – to provide an artificial surface for a limited number of paying users makes no sense to me.

“The business plan uses a report by Hadleigh sports clubs and a draft ‘Hadleigh Town Council’ vision statement as evidence of ‘need’ for a facility that will benefit HUFC more than any other organisation.

“I think these have been used to make a case to spend taxpayers’ money and valuable CIL income on something which will benefit relatively few Hadleigh residents.

“Layham Road Sports Ground needs a pavilion to benefit all the clubs and users of the playing fields. We have lost valuable time when we could have been finding a means to finance and build it.

“What has been identified clearly is a need for people to be more active – women, older and younger people and people who are struggling with mental health issues.

“These groups’ needs will not be met by an artificial pitch that costs £70 an hour to hire. Traditional grass playing fields are far more likely to meet those needs.”

The costs to hire are not clear from the documents about the pitch, yet the draft business plan estimates £50,000 will be made from hiring costs in the first full year after the pitch is installed.