Luton football club calls for long-term solution after travellers damage pitches
Four out of the six pitches have had to be repaired
A football club has been left picking up the pieces after travellers badly damaged their Luton pitches.
Four of the six pitches were unusable just months after Crawley Green Pumas under 16s spent more than £12,000 bringing the site up to standard in time for the football season.
Luton Council has now moved concrete bollards onto the site to prevent further incursions, but the club says a long term solution is needed for the site.
"It was horrendous," said Crawley Green's football development officer James Sherlock. "It was just a nightmare. The travellers' vehicles damaged the ground after it rained, they had a fire which burnt the grass and there was broken glass etc. There was a strong smell of human waste at the back of the fields."
The club, which has more than 300 children who regularly play, plus 40 volunteers coaches, worked with Luton Council to clear the site after the travellers, who had cut a small padlock on a gate to gain entry to the fields, had moved off and on to land on Addington Way at the beginning of last week.
"After the council had cleared some stuff, there were four of us who put in around 30 odd hours of work to get it fixed," said James.
"It's all been a bit of a disaster and the only ones missing out are the kids."
The club was awarded a 10-year grant of £50,000 to improve the site for better training facilities and to avoid bad weather causing cancelled matches in the winter.
They have already put 500 kilos of grass seed on the pitches and James said it was sad to see all the time and money wasted.
Speaking to the club members last week Cllr Sian Goding, Executive Portfolio Holder, said: "We absolutely share the frustration many of you feel over damage done to the grounds at Crawley Green Recreation Ground, but are pleased to report our Parks team will be marking a new pitch before the weekend to replace the 5 aside pitch which suffered particularly badly. This should allow games to go ahead as normal.
"We are awaiting removal of one abandoned caravan, but clean-up of the site is otherwise complete."
The club is now calling for more protection for the council owned land.
Luton Borough Council posted on social media last week that it had asked for another meeting with the police "to see if anything can be done quicker than our legal process and powers will allow".
A council spokesperson said: “We share the frustration of residents and the users of Crawley Green Recreation Ground at the destruction left behind by a recent encampment of travellers. Ensuring the club was back in action as soon as possible has been a priority for our team.
“Our portfolio holder for Neighbourhood Services and Community Safety, Cllr Abbas Hussain, was joined by two senior officers for a walk and talk with the club on Thursday (Sept 23).
“We are pleased to report a productive meeting and positive feedback on our clean-up from club representatives. The grounds are ready for use apart from two small areas that needed re-seeding.
“We are supportive of the proposal to install a retractable bollard. The club is exploring this and will come back to us when they have considered the options available to them.
“We are also looking to make the existing locks more tamper resistant and have committed to helping the club improve security facilities more generally.”