Ashford Town Football Club in 'danger' if plans for new pitch no approved

A Surrey football club is at risk of closure if plans for a new pitch don’t go through, the club has said.
Ashford Town FC Football Pitch layout for artificial grass. (Credit: Spelthorne Council Documents)Ashford Town FC Football Pitch layout for artificial grass. (Credit: Spelthorne Council Documents)
Ashford Town FC Football Pitch layout for artificial grass. (Credit: Spelthorne Council Documents)

Ashford Town Football Club (FC) could be in ‘danger’ if plans for the new pitch next to a petrol site fall through due to safety concerns.

The club submitted an application for an artificial grass pitch at its’ Robert Parker Stadium but the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have raised concerns as it would increase the number of people on the grounds and could create a heightened risk to public safety.

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The stadium adjoins the Esso West London Oil Terminal, a large-scale petrol storage site, located in a hazardous substance area.

Paul Gully, Vice-chair of the club said: “A lot of stuff has been edging on the 3G pitch because that brings in a lot more revenue. That will enable us to secure the future of the club and develop it. It’s been a black cloud over the club for a year.”

Due to the quality and condition of the current grass pitch, players are only able to use it for a limited time each week and are often affected by bad weather conditions.

Paul added: “The idea is there would be more people using it because we need to turn the club into a business.” Faced with limited funding, the club is struggling to make the most of the site and increase the gates for crowds. The proposal for a new pitch hopes to increase opportunities to participate for individuals from deprived or underrepresented backgrounds. The club wants to develop the women’s team, who are often playing at a higher level than the men’s, and create more junior girls teams.

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But the HSE believe the greater use of the pitch over a prolonged period would increase the number of people visiting a site adjacent to hazardous substances. An accident at an oil terminal may result in uncontrolled spills, fires and explosions which could harm human life and the surrounding environment.

Given the objection by the HSE, council officers “do not consider that the benefits of the proposals outweigh the harm”, a Spelthorne Borough Council agenda reads.

Paul explained the chairman, Nick Bailey, has been putting lots of money into the project for the last few years and it is getting to a point where those who have previously supported him in this perhaps cannot do so any longer. Paul said he understood the HSE’s concerns and had good relations with Esso.

The HSE plays an advisory role and has no power to direct the refusal of planning permission or hazardous substance consent.

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If the Spelthorne Planning Committee approves the application, the council is required to give the HSE 21 days advance notice, to consider whether to request the Secretary of State to make their own decision on the application. Spelthorne Council will decide on the proposal on March 7.