Residents call crisis meeting over rugby pitch plans in Sheffield park

Plans for a new rugby pitch in Bolehill Park, Crookes, have been met with fierce opposition from residents.
Plans for a new rugby pitch in Bolehill Park, Crookes, have been met with fierce opposition from residents.
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Residents in one city neighbourhood called a crisis meeting over plans to build a rugby pitch and clubhouse in a loved Sheffield park.

Around 40 people gathered last night to express concerns over Hallamshire Rugby Club plans to develop a new pitch on the top field in Bolehill Park, Crookes.

The club also plan to turn the former Mercury Taxi offices into changing rooms. They plan to use both from January 2017.

Most people's concerns centred around the club's long-term plans to build a fence around the new pitch and turn the changing rooms into a licenced clubhouse.

Residents gathered at The Ball public house to express worries to Coun Adam Hanrahan, Liberal Democrat representative for Crookes and Crosspool.

Neither of the Labour councillors for the ward - Craig Gamble Pugh or Anne Murphy - attended the meeting. Nor did anybody from the rugby club.

Resident Margaret Nalty, who organised the meeting, said: “The top field is well used by the community; by dog walkers, spontaneous football matches, for picnics in summer and so on. Fencing the area off, no matter how high, would ruin the ambiance of the field completely.”

Others raised concerns about parking at matches, antisocial behaviour, reductions in house prices due to the pitch and many were unhappy about losing an area of green space.

Many also believed it was wrong that neither the club, or Sheffield Council, had not consulted anybody about the plans.

But Coun Hanrahan explained the club do not need permission to create a pitch, as there have already been football pitches on the field. The club do not need permission to turn the former offices into changing rooms either, as this is not a change of use in planning law.

Coun Hanrahan explained that a full public consultation would be required to build a fence or to make a licenced clubhouse.

Tom Helliwell, chairman of Hallamshire Rugby Club, who currently do not have a pitch, previously spoke to reassure residents.

He said: "We would like the pitch to be used by schools in the area who do not have access to any green space. A small fence would allow us to keep the area dog free, so school children could use it for all kinds of exercise."

Tom, who lives in Crookes, added: "We want this to be a positive thing for the community are are keen to work with - not against - everybody involved."