A FOOTBALL club’s application to fence off a pitch has been put on hold after councilors decided to shelve a planning application over concerns about access to a local wildlife pond.
Skelton United FC’s proposal for an eight-foot fence and the addition of an overflow car park drew 40 objections from residents.
Comparing it to a “prison camp” fence, some said the field near Marske Lane, Skelton, East Cleveland, isn’t just used by footballers.
The club’s supporters said the pitches at the De Brus Center field were “covered in excrement and rubbish” and that games had been canceled due to damage caused by motorcyclists.
Last year, a similar row erupted over Guisborough Town FC’s plans to fence off its pitches, plans approved by councillors.
Skelton East Councilor Cliff Foggo, who did not vote on the motion, said the proposed placement of the fence blocked access to a deer pond from Marske Lane and Ennerdale.
He said if the application were approved it would mean visitors to the pond, including young children and the disabled, would have to take a longer route along Windermere Drive, Bowland Road and Nidderdale.
Redcar and Cleveland Council’s regulatory committee were told the community-owned pond was maintained by a community group, Friends of Skelton Wildlife Pond, who had spent about £12,000 installing a stroller and wheelchair-friendly path to the north side of the pond from Nidderdale to the field De Brus.
Cllr Foggo said the field has been leased to the club by the Football Council but also for public use as a general park and allowing the use would be detrimental to residents visiting the pond from the field.
He proposed keeping clear a path from Ennerdale to the pond and from the Marske Lane entrance to the De Brus Center and on to the pond, which would mean putting up more fences.
A report from planning officials said it had been accepted that fencing off the property meant it would not be as easily accessible to the public from surrounding residential areas as before.
The report states: “The development is not expected to result in a loss of open space.
“However, fencing the site is believed to increase site security and has the potential to reduce anti-social behavior on site.”
Council member Michael Lockwood said by rejecting the motion, the council would lose all say and proposed a postponement.
He said: “I think if we were to find a compromise here and talk to the parties, I think they would be listening.”
The committee’s chair, Councilor Stuart Smith, said: “We have a conflict with two community groups, Skelton United FC and the Friends of the Pond Group.
“I’m pretty comfortable fencing off play areas, the problem is dog poop, motorbikes etc.
“There are little kids playing sports and there’s nothing worse than making a tackle and ending up in a lot of dog poo.”
He added: “You [the football club] do not prevent access, they set up an access point in the De Brus Center itself.
“It will probably be inconvenient for local residents because they cannot cross the field to get from one point to another, but with the access point people can still use it [the playing field] and train there.
“My concern, along with other committee members, is access to the pond itself.
“It’s sad that no compromise has been found – I’m sure there’s a simple solution that can be worked out that won’t cost the club any extra.
“I would hope that the parties would come together and find a solution here and bring it back to us so that we can be happy with that.”
Councilor Philip Thomson said: “There are a number of issues that need to be addressed.
“I do think that a postponement keeps the opportunity for dialogue open.
“Access to the deer pond area is an issue, the need to fence off the car park and there is a general issue of access throughout the site.
“It is not unreasonable for the club to undertake a reassessment.”
No club representatives were present at the meeting, but Claire Griffiths, head of development services for the council, said she would be in touch with the applicant to discuss the outcome and possible next steps.