Youth football supporters petition for funds to develop area of public open space.

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PARENTS and players of a Barnstaple youth football team have made a compelling case for a new pitch to North Devon Councillors.

Eastside AFC supporters have submitted a 1,059-signiture petition to the council, asking the authority to release £25,000 of developer contributions to transform an area of public open space off Old School Road in Newport.

On Wednesday week, club chairman and under-12s manager Stuart Locke made a passionate plea to council members.

He said the ‘growing’ club currently supported teams from four age groups but hoped to be able to provide affordable football for every age group from under-16s and below.

“Youth football needs intermediate-sized football pitches in Barnstaple,” he said.

“To enable us to cover every age group we would need two full-sized pitches and two intermediate-sized pitches.

“The site at Newport was always a sports field up until the 1980s so let’s get it back in shape; a well-maintained open sports field for the youth in our community to enjoy along with local residents.

“We are not proposing to acquire sole usage, only simply to share this public open space with the people of all ages in the local area of Newport.

“We should all be encouraging children into sports. Over the summer London hosted a very successful Olympic and Paralympic Games and one of the main aims was to inspire a generation into sport, so let’s do this.”

Newport councillor John Matthews said there were ‘complex’ issues regarding the district-council-owned site, including problems with drainage, as well as objections from some local residents about noise and parking.

He called for a full report before any decision is made to release funding.

Fellow ward member Cllr Mike Harrison said that despite assurances that Newport school had already given the go-ahead for use of its car park on match days, he still had concerns over whether people would actually park there.

“I’m undecided about it,” he said. “There is a danger that we’re going to be caught piggy in the middle here.”

After the meeting, Mr Locke said all North Devon youth football clubs followed the FA Respect Campaign and that the days of abusive parents on the sidelines had long gone.

“The only noise that there will be is the sound of an occasional whistle and of children enjoying themselves,” he said.

“In terms of parking, it would be me that arranges the fixtures and people would be told to park in the school. There would be a clear sign.

“The drainage issue is something that needs to be sorted out regardless.”

The council resolved to prepare a report for the overview and scrutiny committee.

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