Excitement over 'urgently needed' football facilities for Houghton Regis

Approved plans for 3G floodlit pitch will help retain players

By Euan Duncan
Friday, 18th February 2022, 11:26 am
Updated Friday, 18th February 2022, 12:10 pm

A "really rubbish state of affairs" is giving way to "excitement" in Houghton Regis, with approval for an all-weather playing surface at Tithe Farm recreation ground, a meeting heard.

The 3G floodlit pitch will enable the town to stage FA Cup ties and prevent an exodus of players, managers and even teams to local rivals, Central Bedfordshire Council's development management committee was told on February 16.

Full plans were submitted by the town council for improvements to the community sports area in Tithe Farm Road, on which it has a long-term lease agreement with CBC, according to senior planning officer Caroline Macrdechian.

Tithe Farm Recreation Ground (Google)

"It's a grass area of open space with a small car park, pavilion, children's play area and a skatepark," she said.

"This project is for an artificial sports pitch enclosed by a 4.5m high fence, along with six 15m tall floodlight columns.

"The car park will be upgraded to tarmac, with an overflow parking area also provided.

"The scheme includes a more central new pavilion, while the current one will be kept for storage purposes.

"Changing facilities, along with a club room, and office space will be provided."

Houghton Regis town clerk Clare Evans said: "There's considerable excitement about these plans within our local community.

"It truly will be an amazing facility for our residents and neighbouring areas, offering a first class community building to local clubs and teams.

"Houghton Regis hasn't benefited from an all-weather pitch for many years. Grassroots football has suffered from it.

"This is a really rubbish state of affairs for a large and substantially growing town," she added.

"The premises will cater for fitness and exercise, and offer social, health and wellbeing opportunities."

Neil Fearn, who chairs Houghton Athletic Football Club, has been coaching football in the town for 20 years.

"This pitch is desperately needed, so we can retain players," he explained.

"This last year we've lost a ladies' reserve team to Barton where they can play in a stadium, an under 14s team which went to Leighton United as it had better facilities, and nine players from our ladies first team go to Dunstable because they get to play on an artificial surface or in a stadium.

"Having one place where all our teams can play will create unity, a sense of local pride, and bring families together from old and new Houghton Regis.

"Having an all-weather pitch will allow us to play our FA Cup games at home, instead of having to travel elsewhere.

"We can run summer tournaments to help raise funds to support the players and create a hardship fund to encourage kids into football whose parents struggle paying subscriptions.

"It'll also allow for after school clubs and school sessions to be run locally. These can feed into teams in our club.

"Even with the new plans for a leisure centre and a secondary school, we don't have much to engage the youth in the evenings," he warned.

"This is something the football centre will bring to Houghton Regis. It's urgently needed now, not tomorrow."

Independent Tithe Farm councillor Pat Hamill described it as "heartening to see" the development layout, saying: "A 3G football pitch secured by a boundary fence should attract interest if marketed in the right way.

"This recreation ground holds many events and it's so good to see the investment which will increase the recreational enjoyment on offer for those engaged in sports, alongside the play area and skateboard park.

"The population is increasing, so open space is invaluable and needs to be protected at any cost."

Conservative Cranfield and Marston Moretaine councillor Ken Matthews, who chairs the committee, said: "There are two objections, which have been addressed in the report."

Conservative Sandy councillor Caroline Maudlin said: "What a lovely application to finish on. I fully support it."

The committee unanimously approved the project.