Plan to score new pitches in Wigan Borough moves forward

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A bid to score three state-of-the-art football hubs in Wigan Borough has moved one step closer.

At its meeting on Thursday, Wigan Council’s cabinet agreed to commit to funding the second stage of the Parklife project which aims to create three new football hub sites within the Borough, constituting a total of eight additional third-generation (3G) pitches.

Parklife is a five-year commitment to building multi-pitch hubs across towns and cities in England with the aim of raising playing standards and opportunities for all. The £200m programme receives investment from The Football Association (FA) alongside the Government, Premier League and local partners.

Parklife is a nationwide project driven by The FA, the Premier League and Sport England aimed at improving football facilities through the development of new specialist hubs with artificial grass pitches. The scheme is delivered by the Football Foundation.

During the football season of 2017/18, 11,953 games across Lancashire, including Wigan, were postponed due to poor pitches.

Wigan is one of eight authorities nationally, and one of only two in the North West, to be included in the first cohort of local authorities taking part in the project.

A pilot project has already delivered state-of-the-art 3G artificial grass pitches in cities including London and Sheffield.

Councillors have now given officers the green light to progress with detailed site designs and planning application work for three new hubs.

The preferred sites in Wigan borough are:

  • Howe Bridge in Atherton
  • William Fosters Playing Fields, Ince
  • Laithwaite Park in Wigan

Feasibility studies and ground investigations have already been completed as part of the first stage of the project. Clubs currently holding leases on the preferred hub sites have been consulted with and have been invited to be partner clubs and use these new facilities as their base.

The hubs will typically have two or three full-sized floodlit 3G artificial grass pitches, changing rooms and clubhouse facilities for community sports clubs representing all playing ages to use and car parking.

They will significantly reduce disruption caused by frozen and waterlogged surfaces during the harsh winter months.

Typically, a well-maintained natural turf pitch can offer six to eight playing hours of football a week, however artificial grass pitches can easily accommodate double that volume on a daily basis. This massively increases the number of playing opportunities and offers football at flexible times.

The centres will be fully accessible and will present opportunities to play flexible forms of the game as well as providing a place for multi-sport usage.

Councillor Nazia Rehman, cabinet member for resources, finance and transformation, said: “To be part of the Parklife programme generates a huge opportunity for the borough to get the very best sports facilities for our communities which can be used the whole year round.

“There are so many potential benefits of having the three new hubs here, from increased levels of health and physical activity among all ages to widening access to sporting activities to all.

“As part of The Deal we want everyone in Wigan Borough, regardless of age, gender or level of ability, to feel able to engage in sport and physical activity.”

The project would bring up to £10m of investment from the Premier League, The FA and the Government. The council would match fund 40 per cent of the rest of programme, bringing the total investment to around £17m.

The portfolio of Parklife hubs will be run by a newly created football trust, the board of which would have representation from , Lancashire FA, Wigan Council, independents  and the Wigan Athletic Community Trust.

The trust would then procure and appoint an operator through a tender process.

The Parklife programme is a central part of Wigan’s new playing pitch strategy which ensures a strategic approach to pitch provision that contributes to the council’s aims of improving health and wellbeing and increasing community involvement.