Why is Worcester Green Party (WGP) supporting the creation of new facilities for playing hockey in the city? What is the difference between that scheme and the Perdiswell football scheme?
Every case should be considered on its own merits, balancing the expected benefits with the likely negatives. Football matches are principally spectator games – 22 players on the pitch and maybe 500 to 1000 people watching. The Perdiswell site is on the busy Bilford Road where people already have great difficulty crossing the road at the convenience store and near the canal bridge. Already cars struggle to pull out safely from Woodland Road and Kingston Avenue. Bilford Road already has the recycling centre and a swimming pool. Local residents are worried about car parking issues and noise on match days. I know from first-hand experience knocking on doors in the area that the local opposition is widespread and deep. Our councillors have a duty to represent the views of local residents and we will defend residents’ position on the football ground. In short: expected benefits for the whole of Worcester are high, while likely negatives (measured by level of opposition)are also relatively high.
In contrast hockey games are generally participatory with 22 players on the pitch and maybe 50 or so spectators. Therefore there will be fewer people and cars. The number of nearby houses that will be affected is low so local public opposition is likely to be low. In short: expected benefits for the whole of Worcester are high, while likely negatives (measured by level of opposition)are low.
(Some people who live in the area will be affected and mitigation and careful consideration will be needed when the exact designs are scrutinised at the planning stage.)
Both the hockey and football schemes would provide community sport, a key driver in the city plan. Sport and leisure are intrinsically good. Both schemes would be very popular with spectators and participants.
Let’s consider what the critics are saying:
1) Hockey is a posh sport and the club is a private members club.
Worcester Hockey is an inclusive club with both men and woman, young and old, from all backgrounds and has 500 members. Worcester Hockey fields at least 14 competitive league teams every Saturday, currently consisting of eight men’s teams, four ladies’ teams and two younger players’ teams. In addition to this, 200 juniors participate in weekly training sessions and the club also trains pupils of local schools and runs summer hockey camps. There is further latent demand from local schools, which the club does not currently have the capacity to service. The club currently actively works with, for example: Tudor Grange Academy, Pitmaston Primary, Redhill Primary, Christopher Whitehead and Blessed Edward Oldcorne. The full list extends to around 30 schools. Currently it costs £130 per year to join with juniors paying £80 per year. At an equivalent of around £2 or £3 per week this is hardly some kind of exclusive club.
2) The city council is paying for the new hockey ground.
The city council has access to low-interest borrowing. The scheme will be set up with the hockey club paying for the interest payments plus a small additional amount on top so the council will actually make a small profit.
3) The scheme builds on green-belt land.
The purpose of green-belt land is to prevent urban sprawl and towns merging with each other. Half of the site is already a football field. As described in the National Planning Policy Framework it is permissible to make a change of use on green-belt land for recreational and outdoor sporting use. The planning process will need to ensure that the site is not overdeveloped.
4) This scheme unfairly favours the hockey club over the football club.
Encouraging all sport is a good thing. WGP would like to see WCFC return to the city in the right location. Do football club supporters want us to block improvements in sports facilities generally, simply because we oppose the Perdiswell Park scheme?