THE leader of independent political group, Our West Lancashire claims youngsters in the borough are being denied the opportunity to play on the £650,000 3G pitch next to the former Glenburn Sports College in Skelmersdale by what he described as “health and safety excuses” issued by West Lancashire College.
Councillor Adrian Owens says that a new Skelmersdale community group, including people involved in the town’s primary schools, have received an in-principle agreement from Lancashire County Council to lease the all-weather pitch at Glenburn.
And he claims that despite having identified the start-up funding required, the group is now being prevented from using the pitch by West Lancashire College over the “stumbling block” with regards to an access route to the site.
Cllr. Owens said: “We understand that West Lancashire College own the access road and car park adjacent to the 3G pitch which would be needed for access and parking for users of the pitch. And they are citing ‘health and safety’ reasons for refusing to allow use of the access road and car park.
“The community group commissioned a report from me, as a health and safety professional, which clearly showed how the everyday and low hazards from what is essentially a piece of tarmac could be adequately controlled.
“Nothing infuriates me more than for health and safety to be used as an excuse. West Lancashire College should be ashamed of themselves and I’m calling on them to reconsider their decision.
“The county council want to use the site for redevelopment in the long term but they have been positive and agreed that a short-term lease would allow this excellent facility to be used in the coming few years.
“The community group have the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to operate this facility at affordable rates. All it needs now is for West Lancashire College to back their local community in a simple, no-cost way.”
And despite the facility being based in Skelmersdale, Cllr. Owens stressed it would also serve the wider West Lancashire community.
The draft constitution of the community group states as its objects, the following:
The advancement of education, through the provision and maintenance of an outdoor physical education facility for the population of Skelmersdale and West Lancashire.
The advancement of amateur sport, through the provision and maintenance of an outdoor all-weather sporting facility for the population of Skelmersdale and West Lancashire.
Our West Lancashire activist, Blair Piggin added: “The tragedy we risk here is losing the most precious resource in those adults and youngsters who commit their time and effort to run these grass roots teams. The longer this is dragged out, and ‘health and safety’ is used as a catch-all excuse, the more the pitch deteriorates due to improper use and neglect. There will come a point when Skelmersdale will lose yet another valuable community resource to neglect - one that cost taxpayers more than £650,000.”
The pitch has been left unused since Glenburn Sports College closed in 2016. Last year Carl Eaton, the manager of the Skem Men-Aces disability football club launched a petition addressed to Lancashire County Council calling for the facility to be opened to the community.
A spokesman for NCG, of which West Lancashire College is a division of, said: “There are real health and safety concerns around the now empty former College buildings at Yewdale, in Skelmersdale.
“The site is plagued with vandalism, there is no electricity or street lighting and in fact it was set on fire earlier this week.
“Access to the 3G pitches is via the College buildings’ access road and it would be irresponsible of NCG as owner of the site to allow visitors to be attracted to the site in its present condition when their safety cannot be guaranteed.
“NCG makes absolutely no ‘excuses’ for putting the safety of young people first.
“West Lancashire Borough Council have yet to determine the potential long term use of the site and we are working closely with them to agree next steps.”