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Junior football club in Sheffield seeks to fence off playing fields

Ecclesall Rangers chairman Martin Windle at Bannerdale playing fields
Ecclesall Rangers chairman Martin Windle at Bannerdale playing fields
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A junior football club in Sheffield is so fed up with dog mess and damage caused by quad bikers it wants to fence off the playing fields it uses.

But it must overcome opposition from residents who argue Bannerdale Playing Fields, off Carter Knowle Road, should be kept open to the public.

Ecclesall Rangers chairman Martin Windle during a coaching session with young footballers

Ecclesall Rangers chairman Martin Windle during a coaching session with young footballers

Ecclesall Rangers Junior Football Club, which has 23 teams with around 250 members between them, has played its home fixtures at the site since its formation in the early 1990s.

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The club had to temporarily relocate this season to Whirlow playing fields in Dore, while the new Mercia School is being built on part of the Bannerdale site, but it hopes to return once the school opens.

However, unless it can raise the funds needed to improve the pitches, build changing facilities and fence off the playing fields, its founder and chairman Martin Windle says its future will remain hanging in the balance.

He has launched a petition to help raise the £300,000-£400,000 which he says the club - one of whose former players recently signed for Manchester City Women - requires to bring its facilities up to scratch, and to secure permission to erect fencing.

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"Our club was built on the belief that football is for all, regardless of ability or difference, but we need to bring our grounds into the 21st century and create a secure, safe and clean environment for children to play sport in," said Mr Windle.

"Who's going to invest in improving our facilities if people can get on with quad bikes and cars, and if we're left to clean up the awful mess left by dogs?"

The playing fields are also home to Millhouses Junior FC and are used by members of the public.

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Mike Hodson, secretary of Carterknowle and Millhouses Community Group, said the association believed the entire playing fields should remain open for general use.

"Giving the club a restrictive deal to use the land and put up fencing would be to the detriment of everyone else's enjoyment," he said.

He added that a steering group had been set up to determine the future of the green space, which was created when Abbeydale Grange School and the Bannerdale Centre were demolished, and everyone should be able to have their say.

Paul Billington, director of culture and environment at Sheffield Council, said: "We are in discussions with the two clubs who use Bannerdale and we are committed to meeting the needs of the clubs as far as possible, but we also have to take into account the views of the wider community.

"We are talking to people about how best to improve the site for everybody. Discussions are ongoing and no decision has been taken by the council at this stage."

* Ecclesall Rangers' petition, which has been signed by more than 800 people, is at https://chn.ge/2IJN6B9.