Field campaigners’ anger over ‘carve-up’

The small green space that would be for public use ' the football club dugouts are on the right. SG160913-130TW
The small green space that would be for public use ' the football club dugouts are on the right. SG160913-130TW
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Campaigners battling to open Spalding’s Sir Halley Stewart Field to the public won’t accept plans for a £10,000, eight foot high fence to keep visitors off the football pitch.

District councillors, who are trustees for the field, heard about the possible “carve-up” when correspondence between the Charity Commission and South Holland District Council was released on Wednesday.

Plans discussed in the council offices include opening the King’s Road entrance, so people can use a small green space there, but fencing off the pitch to the right of that.

But Bill Johnson, from Spalding Community Campaign, says the whole field is meant to be there for the public benefit and putting up a fence would change that situation.

He said: “They are just offering us part of it. It would also give one organisation (the football club) the chance to take over the Sir Halley Stewart Field, which would be against the Charity Commission guidelines because they say that no one organisation should dominate the field.”

The Charity Commission and council are wrangling over the use of the field. The Commission has asked the council to consider opening it for informal recreation activities generally, or on specific days with designated areas being made available so as to protect other areas like football pitches.

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The Charity Commission criticised South Holland District Council for not managing the Sir Halley Stewart Field in a way that gives sufficient public benefit.

It says: “It seems unlikely that any individual or group of individuals would make a request to gain access to the field for informal purposes, under current arrangements, because the requirements (which are designed for big events) are too onerous.

“Nevertheless we accept that it is not correct to say that the general public has no access.

“Access is possible, but it is significantly restricted.”

Coun Angela Newton told councillors the Charity Commission is clear the field should be opened for some informal recreation.

Coun Roger Gambba-Jones urged caution, saying an £8,000 bill for a fence would fall on Spalding taxpayers alone, but Coun Newton said the most import thing was that councillors – as trustees for the field – should obey the rules.

Coun Newton said: “Sometimes some of the services that we provide do cost us money, but we do have to provide them.”

Council deputy leader Coun Nick Worth told the Free Press the council is seeking clarification on the Charity Commission’s stance and maintains the field is for sporting use.