The long-standing dream of a Northumberland village’s junior football club to have its own home ground has moved a step closer after a £10,000 grant from a regional employer allowed for its future pitches to be made ready for development.
Ellington Juniors FC has more than 135 members playing for 15 different age group teams, from under sixes to under 21, but it has never had its own pitches in the village, meaning that all its matches have to be played away in Lynemouth, Linton and Ashington.
The club was gifted nine acres of land by Alcan when its Lynemouth smelting plant closed on which to build new pitches and a new clubhouse with changing facilities, but on condition that it had to get the work done within three years.
Planning permission has been granted for two full size pitches, a junior pitch, a 3G pitch and the clubhouse, and funding has been lined up from the Football Association, the Football Foundation and other bodies to help meet the estimated overall £700,000 cost of the project.
But before this money can be released, the club needed to cover the cost of sectioning off the future playing surface before preparation work could begin.
A £10,000 donation made by the Banks Group from its Banks Community Fund has now enabled the club to call in local contractor C & D Plant Hire to fence off the whole of the future playing area, in order to protect it from unauthorised users such as motorbike riders who might damage the new pitches as they were being prepared.
A new footpath has also been built alongside the fenced-off area to provide local dog walkers who previously used the area with a designated way around it.
Work on preparing the new pitches is scheduled to start later in the summer, with seeding to follow in the autumn.
Construction of the new clubhouse is expected to begin early next year, with a view to the whole complex being ready for use at the start of the 2018-19 football season.
Sarah Gair, fundraising officer at Ellington Juniors Football Club, said: “This is the biggest thing to happen in the village for ages and everyone is getting right behind what the club is doing.
“Not having our own ‘home’ ground means extra time and effort is always needed from parents to get their children to and from games and training sessions, not to mention the significant cost of hiring out pitches all the time, and we’re desperate to get everything in place as soon as we can.
“We’d reached a crucial stage with the project, as we wouldn’t have been able to start work on preparing the pitched until the ground was safe and secure, and any delay might have risked us falling behind schedule and therefore not being able to start using the new ground when we’d envisaged.
“The Banks Group’s support has enabled us to get the site fully secured in time to start preparations on the pitch, and we’re excited to see work kicking off at the ground later in the summer.”
Jeannie Kielty, community relations manager at the Banks Group, added: “So much effort, energy and determination is going into making Ellington Juniors’ dreams of their own home into reality, and the progress that has been made in a relatively short time is amazing.
“As a business that has worked in South East Northumberland for over 30 years, we’re proud to be playing our part in bringing this project to fruition, and we’re looking forward to seeing everything in place next year.”
The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of Banks Group projects.
Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.