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.
“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.