Sports teams hit out at Jaguar Land Rover playing fields plans - The Solihull Observer

Sports teams hit out at Jaguar Land Rover playing fields plans

Solihull Editorial 28th Jun, 2019 Updated: 28th Jun, 2019   0

SPORTS clubs including Solihull Moors youth teams have hit out at alleged plans to turn a historic social club’s playing fields into a Jaguar Land Rover car park.

And another football club’s future is now under threat.

As we reported yesterday, almost 2,000 people have signed a petition against the plans while Land Rover Sports and Social Club bosses have called on Sport England and the FA to protect its pitches.

JLR eventually wants to reclaim the club’s entire site that the company owns on Billsmore Green, Elmdon.

It is is understood JLR wants to build a staff car park on the playing fields.

In a move which has prompted sadness and anger, the club is expected to be given 12 months before its lease covering much of the playing fields is revoked.

The site has been a community hub for Elmdon residents for more than 45 years.

The club says it is difficult to imagine the club could continue without the playing fields as the clubhouse relies on the money from the 22 football teams and a rugby club who play on the field, some of which are now facing uncertain futures.

Solihull Moors youth coach Ant Hasker says the club’s under-14 and under-16 teams – some of the most talented, ‘elite’ young footballers in the borough – play on the club’s pitches on Saturdays.

He said the pitches are some of the best in the borough – and are located less than a mile away from the club’s Damson Park ground.

He told us: “I’ve played there myself for more than 20 years.

“The facilities and the club house are fantastic. The surface in the last two years has really improved. That’s why we use them.

“Now our players haven’t got a guarantee they will be playing there next year.

“Even for a big club our size, to find a new suitable pitch will be really difficult.

“We wanted to get more teams playing there, from our under-10s onwards.

“Solihull as a whole does not have many green spaces left. If Land Rover goes, it’s going to be a big loss.”

Olton Ravens Football Club operates 12 teams and has been running since the 1970s – but now faces a battle to find a new ground.

Spokesperson Andy Jones told us: “If we can’t find somewhere suitable, all of a sudden you have got kids who can’t play football with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

“And that reverts them back to Playstations, hanging round street corners and just kicking their heels.

“It is not that easy to find green areas nowadays.

“If we can’t find somewhere to play, then that’s it.

“There are many teams folding in the local area because houses are being built and green areas are being eaten up.”

The club says it has more than 3,500 members – about 3,000 of which are workers or former workers at the Lode Lane factory.

Green Party councillor Max McLoughlin – who used to play on the fields for Hall Green Galaxy Football Club – said: “This isn’t just green space for children to play on, it’s much more. It’s where people bond as sports teams.

“It’s where people get exercise walking their dogs, riding their bikes and running.

“I hope JLR can look at alternatives that don’t remove a vital community asset forever.”

A JLR spokesman said: “JLR is having ongoing discussions with Sport England to consider a strategy of creating new and enhancing existing sports fields in the Solihull borough.”

Sport England is the statutory body for objecting to any planning application that removes playing fields without adequate alternative provision in the community.

We also reported yesterday that social club bosses have called on Sport England, the Football Association (FA), the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Solihull Council to oppose the plans.

The social club’s secretary Jo Paling said: “The club understands the core planning principles of the National Planning Policy Framework are to improve health, social and cultural well being for all.

“The Local (housing and development) Plan for Solihull clearly sets out the importance of formal and informal physical activity and the provision and protection of sports facilities.

“This is further re-enforced by the adopted Playing Pitch Strategy this year which provides a clear evidence base for planning decisions affecting sports pitches and ancillary facilities.”

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