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Work starts on controversial £800,000 hockey pitch in Yeovil

By Western Gazette - Yeovil  |  Posted: March 07, 2013

WORK BEGINS: Councillor Sylvia Seal and Keith Walters (centre) joined by Barbara Reynolds (England Hockey Board), Steve Joel (assistant director Community Health & Well-Being), Jake Hannis (senior sport and healthy lifestyles officer) alongside members of Yeovil and Sherborne Hockey Club

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The controversial development of an £800,000 hockey pitch in Yeovil will provide a much-needed facility, according to the chairman of Yeovil and Sherborne Hockey club.

Work started on the new artificial grass pitch at the Yeovil Recreation Ground on Tuesday, despite protesters last week threatening to tie themselves to trees if the development went ahead.

South Somerset District Council says the sports ground will provide new facilities for local schools and promote community sports.

Keith Walters, chairman of the Yeovil and Sherborne Hockey Club, said: “Whatever site was chosen, there were always going to be some objections. I understand the reasons for the objections but I would like to reassure people that I totally believe that the hockey pitch will be a fantastic community facility – one that is very much needed in the area.

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“There is a shortfall of such facilities in south Somerset. I don’t think people realise how big a sport hockey actually is – there are over 1,000 hockey clubs in England. Every other major sport is represented in the town – football, swimming, athletics, rugby – apart from hockey.”

The pitch will be a new home for the hockey club, which has been desperate to return to the town after moving to Sherborne in 2003 due to a lack of synthetic facilities in Yeovil.

Mr Walters, who has been playing hockey for 35 years, hopes that the new pitch will bring benefits to the nearby college, schools and sports clubs.

He said: “The new pitch will give local organisations and people access to a purpose-built hockey surface and one of the largest fully accredited hockey clubs in the South West.”

Alex Teasdale, national manager of clubs and facilities at England Hockey Board, said: “We look forward to seeing Yeovil and Sherborne Hockey Club return to Yeovil. With the increased interest in hockey as a result of London 2012, we hope to see many newcomers join in at the new facility.”

The project, which will cost £817,000, is led by South Somerset District Council, with funding from the England Hockey Board and Barratt Homes.

District councillor Sylvia Seal said: “This really does promise to be a true community facility. During the daytime the pitch will be available for use by local schools and Yeovil College, whilst also being available for a range of other sports. Enhancing facility provision with facilities such as this can only help to drive up participation and performance levels in community sport.”

The council did an assessment of artificial grass pitches in 2006 which found a shortfall in pitches within Yeovil and across other parts of South Somerset.

Work on the pitch is expected to take 14 weeks and to be complete by June.

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  • keenrunner  |  March 07 2013, 6:31PM

    Digging is soon to commence but before the Yeovil Rec is irrevocably changed I'd like to remind the people of Yeovil that prior to offering their support for the AGP at the Rec the hockey club would have preferred it to be sited at Preston School. Keith Walters, chairman of the hockey club wrote to the Council in January 2010 and stated that the club would favour the facility on a school or education premise and that the Rec was not in their opinion ideal for the club or for those primary and secondary schools they would be looking to encompass. Furthermore by siting it on school premises would ensure a clear and visible pathway for young people to develop an enthusiasm and passion for hockey. It's not too late as the actual construction has not started yet so using the words of the chairman of the hockey club in his original letter to the SSDC, "............I urge you now to reconsider your plans to place this facility at Mudford Rec. There appear to be very well founded grounds, both financially and from the community to seriously consider the application and proposals being submitted by Tony Bloxham and Preston School. They are well researched, well supported, well financed, ready to go and above all else are considerate to all the needs of England Hockey, the bid process and are well placed for all to access."

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