North Devon’s new £775,000 artifical grass football pitch has been officially opened.

The official opening of the artificial grass pitch in Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartThe official opening of the artificial grass pitch in Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the North Devon Council-owned facility at Barnstaple's Tarka Tennis centre was held on Wednesday (February 5), during the Devon Ability Games.

Devon wheelchair rugby player Tilly Robinson did the honours in cutting the ribbon.

Robinson, who has recently been selected for the GB Wheelchair Rugby team, was the guest of honour at the games, which saw hundreds of youngsters with special educational showing off their skills over a day of friendly sporting competition.

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden, said: "I am pleased to announce that our new FA-registered AGP has been completed.

The official opening of the artificial grass pitch in Barnstaple. Picture: Matt SmartThe official opening of the artificial grass pitch in Barnstaple. Picture: Matt Smart

"It is an excellent facility for our local teams to play on throughout the year and we are grateful for the funding that has been allocated to our project by the Football Foundation from the Premier League and FA Facilities Fund."

The 3G artificial grass pitch was highlighted as the highest priority project in the North Devon Playing Pitch Strategy adopted by North Devon Council in 2017.

It has replaced one of two grass pitches behind Tarka Tennis Centre, which were under-used and prone to waterlogging.

The pitch can host formal 11-a-side, nine-a-side and seven-a-side matches throughout the football season and can be a base for training sessions.

Devon County FA hosts small-sided leagues on the pitch and Exeter City FC also hosts its development centre from the site.

Fremington FC and Eastside FC use the site too, with the two sides selected as partner clubs.

Fremington FC chairman Graham Smelt said: "The AGP will be invaluable to our club allowing us to strengthen our existing teams and develop new ones.

"The facility is the highest quality facility in North Devon and we hope to use it to deliver to a much wider audience, including a new 'Wildcats' programme, in association with Devon FA, for girls aged 4-11.

"Without the stability that the new facility offers us, it would not be possible to deliver this growth. It is heart-warming to see just how excited our groups are to use the new facility and we are grateful to all involved."

The AGP was made possible thanks to £445,423 of funding from the Premier League, the FA and the Government's Football Foundation.

More than £200,000 came from local housing contributions from developers, North Devon Council funded more than £100,000 and Devon County Council contributed £15,000.

Paul Thorogood, chief executive of the Football Foundation, said: "Grassroots sport plays an important role in communities across the UK, creating opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. That is why I am delighted that North Devon Council has now opened their state-of-the-art AGP in Barnstaple, thanks to investment from the Football Foundation.

"Continuing to improve access to high-quality facilities like this one is a key aim for the Premier League, The FA and the Government. Delivered by the Football Foundation, their funding supports projects for clubs and organisations all over the country and is helping to boost the number of people benefiting from sport through better facilities."

It is anticipated that the formation of 40 new football teams will support over 800 people playing affiliated football at the site over the next five years.