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31st March 2003
Minutes of Special Meeting of the Council held in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane, on Monday 31 March 2003 at 7.30 p.m.
Present: -In the Chair: -Councillor E Mc Menamin, MLA Other Members: -Councillors: I Barr, A Bell, A Bresland, J Donnell, D Hussey, MLA, B McMahon, J McNulty Total = 8 In Attendance:- Clerk & Chief Executive Head of Culture, Art & Leisure Administrative Assistant Mr D Rouse, Mr F McCrossan – Strabane F.C. Mr B Burke – Village Swifts Mr F Hendry – Mourne Celtic Apologies:-Councillors: D Breslin, J Emery, T Kerrigan,T McBride, E McGarvey, C McGill, C McHugh, B McNamee, Dr T Stark – Chair, Intermediate Soccer League Mr J McCrossan – Strabane FC
Discussion of Soccer Pitches in Strabane
Councillor McMenamin welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced the soccer representatives to the Members. He explained that the objective of the discussions was to find solutions to the problem of insufficient Council stock pitch availability whilst Melvin undergoes redevelopment, commencing in June 2003. He indicated that it was anticipated that both pitches in Melvin would be completed and fully developed by 2004.
He referred to the existing arrangements of play order, which were as follows:
MEADOW ONE – Mourne Celtic, on Sundays Strabane FC, on Saturdays
MEADOW TWO – Not usable
MELVIN ONE – Waterfront FC, on Saturdays A.M. Village Swifts, on Saturdays P.M. Mourne Swifts, on Sundays
Councillor McMenamin recommended that the potential use of pitches in Sion mills should be explored and suggested that options be discussed with the aim of locating and identifying alternative parks.
Councillor McMahon asked if there was representation from all clubs. K McFarland, Head of Culture, Arts & Leisure, advised that the representatives of the league clubs had been invited, with the initial aim of arranging fixtures. She said that the Council wanted to work in partnership with the clubs in order to secure the best options and indicated that negotiations with Sion Mills were ongoing.
F McCrossan pointed out that the requirements for the Intermediate League were different from those of the Junior League and explained that certain constraints and criteria had to be met to satisfy their regulations. For example, changing rooms should be within the pitch boundaries, matches cannot be played on a Saturday morning on a pitch where a match is to be played on a Saturday afternoon, and the condition of a pitch can only be decided on by a Referee, according to the Intermediate League rules. F McCrossan pointed out that a pitch has to be registered for a year, thus ruling out the possibility of moving around between pitches. Councillor Bell asked F McCrossan if he had inspected any pitches recently in his capacity as a referee. F McCrossan said that he had not carried out any inspections this year.
It was generally agreed that the lease on the Meadow pitches should be reviewed and steps taken to make Meadow 2 operational as soon as possible, with the added option of possible use of the pitch at Sion Mills. K McFarland commented that the pitch at Camus had been considered, whilst the Glebe pitch had been deemed as less suitable. It was agreed that the playing fields at Melmount should be investigated as an option in the interim period.
Councillor McMahon suggested that the different clubs should work together to achieve their aims and Councillor McNulty asked if the football fraternity in Strabane had ever tried to raise funding for the pitches. F Hendry replied that they were unable to obtain funding due to the Council’s refusal in the past to give them a letter, which would allow them to apply for a site at the Bog Road. He said that the clubs were coaching and protecting youngsters and providing them with an interest without receiving any Council help whatsoever. He stressed that he regarded a letter from the Council as an essential requirement in attaining their objective of providing cross-community football. F McCrossan concurred with F Hendry and pointed out that they had been looking for ground to develop as a football field for the last 15 years. He made particular reference to the Bog Road site and said that they had been more or less promised this land by several different Council representatives over the years, all to no avail. F McCrossan referred to a letter from Mr Declan O’Hare of the North West Development Office, a copy of which was given to the Chief Executive of Strabane District Council, which reinforced his statement concerning their efforts to attain land.
The Chief Executive pointed out that there were several parties interested in the Park Road and Gas Yard sites and advised that he had invited both the developers and the soccer lobby to make presentations to Council. He said that Strabane District Council had set money aside in the budget for the purchase of this land but that, ultimately, the decision rested with the Department of Social Development (DSD) and could not be dictated by the Council.
Councillor McMenamin assured the football delegation that Council had made many attempts to get pitch allocation on more than one site and stressed the importance of transparency in all dealings. Councillor Barr said that he concurred with the statements expressed by F McCrossan as it was indeed true that it had appeared that Council were to become the owners of the said land at one stage but, unfortunately, the promise had never materialised and the status remained the same now as it did many years ago with Strabane District Council being no further forward in attaining the site. With reference to the aforementioned, requested letter, Councillor Barr stressed that Council has not been in a position for many years to give any group, association or individual a letter. However, he drew attention to the fact that it was only as a result of an initiative taken by the Chief Executive and K McFarland that funding had become available to allow the upgrading of the Melvin pitches to commence. Councillor McMenamin concurred with Councillor Barr’s remarks and suggested that all present should concentrate on the positive aspects of what is actually viable and reminded everyone that a further meeting would be taking place next week when the soccer lobby and the developers would both be in attendance. He advised that Camus and Sion Mills pitches would be checked out and again assured the football delegates that Strabane District Council had searched everywhere for suitable land for pitches.
Councillor Hussey advised that, on a personal level, he had searched for many years in Castlederg before finding suitable land. He drew attention to the following issues:
1 Can the clubs be satisfied with the conditions short term? 2 Could the clubs follow the example set by Killen, where a long term lease has been granted to the local club, thus placing them in a position to apply for Lottery funding? 3 Could the clubs purchase a pitch, which would have to be valued by the District Valuer? (this option would be worth considering as it would also allow for application for Lottery funding) 4 Would the different clubs and teams form an association as a proper club structure is necessary in order to seek funding.
Councillor Hussey concluded by suggesting that all possibilities be investigated whilst waiting for the pitches.
F McCrossan pointed out that Strabane FC is a bona-fide club which has been functioning since 1961 and has been looking for ground and grant aid which has not materialised due to difficulties with the lease issue.
The Chief Executive stated that he anticipated that suitable pitches would be available 5 years down the line and pointed out that Strabane District Council owns the Gas Yard site. He said, however, that DSD would probably make the final decision and commented that the Cricket Club would have to be relocated to Park Road.
K McFarland advised that she had noted all the options and would now identify and prioritise them and facilitate the work in order to meet the time scale. She said that she would concentrate on the issue over the next few weeks and would hope to reach a satisfactory solution. F McCrossan commented that he appreciated the efforts being made by Council but said he wished to remind everyone that the Intermediate League demands that the ground is registered and enclosed.
The meeting finished at 8.45 pm.
DATED this 31day of MARCH, 2003
SIGNED____________________________ Clerk & Chief Executive
DATED this 13th day of MAY, 2003
SIGNED____________________________ Chairman of the Council