We don't want a huge new sports ground built right next door – we're sick of football, we just want our park | The Sun

RESIDENTS have been left fuming after plans to build a huge new sports ground next door would see their park ruined.

Disgruntled locals in Preston, Lancashire, have voiced concerns at controversial plans to build a sports hub on Ashton Park.

The green space has been earmarked for £9.5 million revamp with a number of homeowners demanding the changes be stopped.

But the proposed facelift drew condemnation from some residents when it was put out to public consultation in July, with a campaign mounted under the banner “Fight for Ashton Park”.

The Facebook group now has 1,100 members, while a petition calling on Preston City Council to rethink its blueprint for the park has been signed by 2,300 people.

Their objections revolve around the planned installation of a synthetic 3G football pitch, along with the creation of a new “sports hub” building and car park – all sited on what is currently open parkland.

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These changes would take up almost 15 percent of the park’s current surface area.

Additionally, six traditional grass pitches would be developed – only two are currently available.

Residents had warned that the park would simply “cease being a park as we know it” if the proposal went ahead in its current form.

James Walsley told the Lancashire Post: "It then stops being a park and starts being a vanity sports centre for Preston City Council – and that's all it is."

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However, local junior league football coach John Griffith says that the proposal basically amounts to the loss of “the middle of the park”, leaving most of it untouched.

John told LancsLive: "A lot of those who live [around here] want the park to be developed, because they want it to be a space they can actually use.

"If you look at the plans, they include putting in paths for people to walk around the park – you can’t do that at the moment. It would also bring in a facility that’s safe for kids, whereas now, it’s just an open park.

"I just don’t see it being used for sporting [activity] right now – whether it be football, cricket or whatever.

"I don’t see it being used by kids. Plus, the current football pitches flood.” 

The public consultation into the redevelopment plans closed at the end of August.

And while the Fight for Ashton Park group has blasted the proposal for being biased towards football, John says that it would provide much-needed playing and training areas for youngsters.

He says that Springfields lost the use of their home pitch last weekend, because of flooding, forcing his own team to travel and play on an “unsuitable” surface.

John added: “I hate the word but the pitch in Eccleston was squelchy.

"Growing up, I played on some horrific pitches, but now there are a lot more safety guidelines – which is probably more beneficial for kids nowadays than when I used to play and the mud would be up to our knees.

“The kids just want to play, including my youngest. As soon as it starts raining, he’s like, ‘It’s off, isn’t it, Dad?’.

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"I just think it’s a bit sad.”

Preston City Council has said that it cannot yet provide a definitive timeline for the following stages of the planning process, but says that the feedback received “is assisting us with designs and what comes next for the scheme”.

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