A cricket club expecting to lose the ground it has occupied since the 1930s through a council’s redevelopment plans believe they have won a reprieve – though officials are now worried about the long-term viability of the club because of continued uncertainty surrounding the site.
Rockingham Colliery Cricket Club was established in Hoyland Common, Barnsley, in the 1930s and has continued to be based at the Rockingham sports ground, surviving after the closure of the colliery.
Several years ago Barnsley Council announced they planned to use the site for a job creation project as part of long-term plans for the development of the whole borough, with its close proximity to the M1 making the site appealing to potential investors.
That hinged on the council finding an alternative home for the thriving club and it appears no suitable site is available in the neighbourhood.
The club is already oversubscribed for the one pitch it has available and the council has now decided the whole sports ground site is no longer needed for their ambitions to create more jobs, leaving the club expecting to stay where it is, despite a need for more space.
As an answer to that, the council has flagged up part of the Parkside recreation ground in the village as potentially suitable to provide the additional space they would need for a second pitch.
Club officials recognise the council’s desire to ensure the club survives in future, but believe no actual work in the area is now likely until the early 2030s and think the ongoing uncertainty about the club and its home will affect their ability to get the grants they need to sustain and develop the club.
In addition they have concerns that the Parkside site may prove unsuitable for cricket use, due to a slope on the land.
They are so concerned they have contacted the planning inspector who will ultimately decide whether the council’s plans are suitable to be adopted as a policy, to raise their fears.
If the revised plan to leave them on a reduced site at the Rockingham ground was approved, it would still leave the question of how the club could expand unanswered, should the Parkside option prove unworkable.
Treasurer Gordon Jacobs has written to inspector Sarah Housden on behalf of the club, stating that the club had expanded substantially in recent years and that: “Such intense use of a single undersized cricket field is unsustainable in the future and therefore there is an urgent need to expand the area available for cricket to allow the playing of two concurrent matches.
“This need is driven by demand, all the national and local indications being that such demand will continue in the future.
“The uncertainty in recent years regarding the possibility of developing the site for employment purposes has prevented the club from obtaining security of tenure via a lease.
“This in turn has denied the club access from obtaining sufficient grant monies to build a much needed dedicated cricket pavilion and improve site drainage or to further any significant ground improvements.”
The club say they “welcome” the change in Barnsley Council’s plans, though they have not yet seen revised plans to show how much of the recreation ground would be lost.
Although the second site, at Parkside, could be offered the club say it could prove unsuitable because of a slope to the land there.
“Nevertheless, the cricket club is grateful to Barnsley MBC who are clearly anxious to support and encourage our future growth and ambitions.”
The cricket club rents the site on a year by year basis at present, from a charity called the Forge Community Partnership, which leases the whole site from Barnsley Council.
They believe the council’s expectation not to develop part of the site before 2033 could be damaging to their immediate future, telling the inspector: “This scenario could, therefore, leave the cricket club still without the prospect of securing a lease at Rockingham sports ground for many years, thus thwarting the ability to attract major funding to carry out significant site improvements urgently required.
“In addition the club is concerned that in the Parkside recreation ground is deemed suitable as a cricket venue its development may be deferred until such time as actual employment development of part of the Rockingham sports ground becomes an imminent prospect, ie sometime around 2033.”
Michael Sanderson, of the Forge Community Partnership, said: “We have consistently argued for the retention of the Rockingham Centre and associated sports facilities.”