At the Town Council Amenities and Public Spaces Committee meeting on Monday November 16, Marlborough Rugby Football Club (MRFC) was given the go ahead to create a third pitch/training ground on the Common albeit with certain conditions and in the face of considerable opposition to the scheme.
MRFC and Marlborough Youth Football Club (MYFC) who will use the new pitch/training ground will need to negotiate with Marlborough Model Flying Club to ensure this club is able to use the Common at designated times at a weekend. Any rugby poles erected must be laid flat when the pitch is not in use.
The pitch/training ground will be one of the two proposals suggested by MRFC and will be situated adjacent to the present pitches. It will be created by levelling the ground and laying 4 inches of top soil which will be seeded. The cost of around £35,000 will be borne by MRFC.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, councillors had met with the various groups who use the Common and who will be affected by the creation of the third pitch. Marlborough Model Flying Club (MMFC), Marlborough Youth Football, the Park Run, the Tennis Club, and Golf Club were all consulted. Members of the first three groups were at Monday’s meeting to ensure their views were heard together with the environmental group, Transition Marlborough. The Town Council also received letters from several members of the public who objected to the loss of a wild area on the Common or who had concerns about parking due to the increased numbers using the Common.
Mark Thomas, Secretary of MRFC, said, “We need the third training area to provide added opportunity to promote the mental and physical health of the 700 youngsters who attend MRFC and MYFC.”
Gary Sharpe, Chair of MRFC, said, “We are woefully under served by sport space in Marlborough and 700 kids need somewhere to play.”
Chris Musgrave, Treasurer of MRFC, commented, “This is open land, we will only make it flat. People can still walk on it. We will be improving the area which is full of ragwort at the moment. The plan doesn’t take anything away from the Common.”
However, considerable dismay was expressed by Marlborough Model Flying Club, a club with 40 members, founded in the 1950’s. Chris Bradford, Secretary, said, “We are in despair that more land is being used for rugby purposes. We are being squeezed on all corners.”
Richard Pitts from the environmental group, Transition Marlborough, called for a public consultation. He said, “The Common is a place for everyone. A third pitch will fundamentally change the nature of the common by destroying wildlife habitats and biodiversity. The Rugby club does not represent a sufficient percentage of the population to warrant another pitch. Given the climate emergency we face I urge a full consultation of the public before making a decision.”
Cllr Hall spoke in favour of the third pitch, “My work on the Neighbourhood Plan confirms the lack of flat ground for pitches. 700 boys and girls is a real number. It’s vital we meet these community needs. The common is not a conservation area but the town’s recreational area.”
Cllr Farrell and Cllr Hillier agreed. Cllr Farrell commented, “It’s important to get kids out exercising. The pitch won’t be in use every day. There’s enough land there to continue dog walking.”
The proposal for the third pitch was put to the vote and narrowly passed.