DOZENS of Doncaster sports pitches could be lost as a result of plans to end a grounds maintenance agreement, it is claimed.
Officials in charge of miners’ welfare clubs across the borough fear there will be no way of keeping their facilities - including football pitches, cricket pitches and bowling greens - in a usable state.
One trustee predicts much of the land will end up as building sites for housing companies.
Doncaster Council’s ruling cabinet is due to make a decision tomorrow on whether to end a deal which clubs say dates back to the 1970s, when councils took over the grounds’ maintenance work, along with equipment clubs had previously used to look after their own grounds.
The decision would affect 12 miners’ welfare club sites - Mexborough, Thorne/Moorends, Armthorpe, Bentley, Denaby and Cadeby, Rossington, Brodsworth, Stainforth/Hatfield Main, Dunscroft/Hatfield Main, Askern, Edlington/Yorkshire Main and Highfields.
Some of the facilities are rated among the best in Doncaster, and are used by local leagues for events such as cup finals. Many are also used for community events.
It is understood the miners’ welfare organisation CISWO has been told of concerns by clubs across the borough, and is concerned as to how the organisations, which are run as charities, will be able to afford to maintain grounds commonly between 10 and 20 acres in size.
A trustee at Mexborough Miners Welfare who asked not to be named said he thought it was a possibility that they may have to close the grounds if the maintenance agreement ended, as they would be unable to keep the grounds safe.
He said money raised from the clubs bars was not high, as clubs were seeing similar hard times to pubs.
Chairman of the trustees at Brodsworth Welfare, Allen Bell, estimated it would cost up to £30,000 to buy new maintenance equipment alone. He said they believe the cost to the council for the Brodsworth land to be around £32,000 a year.
His club, which has no bar, operates through fundraising events which raise around £40,000 a year and is run by volunteers.
He said: “If we lose the grounds maintenance, then I would say probably every one of the miners’ welfare clubs in the Doncaster area could close.
“We have had meetings and we are all saying the same thing - it would stop sporting activity.
“It would be catastrophic for all of us if they pull it. Doncaster could lose a vast number of sports facilities.
“We have two football pitches, a cricket pitch and a bowling green. That is not uncommon. Some have more.
“I would be concerned that pitches would end up as housing. I think it would have serious consequences for everyone in Doncaster, as facilities would be lost all across the borough.”
The current maintenance arrangements for the Conisbrough and Carcroft welfare sites would continue to be provided by the council as it is believed legal ownership is with Doncaster Council as trustee for the sites.
A report which will go before cabinet tomorrow proposes to end the maintenance agreement on April 1 next year.
It states: “After due consideration and initial dialogue with representatives of CISWO, the Mayor has taken the view that the free service should be withdrawn and any future service provision, where requested by individual welfares, should be paid for by them.”
It added: “At a time when the council faces a significant reduction in the funding from Government and the fiscal challenges presented to core services, the cessation of a free service will bring services such as grounds maintenance into line with other clients, whereby generally charges for service provision are made.
“Doncaster Council will continue to offer services on a ‘charged for’ basis.”
The report also warns individual welfare schemes may fall into a state of disrepair or cease to exist if, for example, there was a lack of funding available to maintain existing facilities, but said that could not be given a risk rating as it could not be foreseen.
A Doncaster Council spokesman said no decision had yet been made.