£5m football hub planned for Brentwood

As much as £5million could be invested in creating a major seven–pitch football hub in Brentwood.

The plans for seven pitches at the Brentwood Centre – two of which will be all weather 3G surfaces – are part of the Brentwood Borough Council leisure strategy.

The strategy also includes the potential multi-million pound revamp of the Brentwood Centre and its plans for King George’s playing fields, which it has pledged more than £7million of investment into.

Under the plans for the football hub the Brentwood Town FC stadium may move to accommodate a revamped Brentwood Centre and to future-proof the area in case of any A12 widening that may take place in the future.

Ideas submitted to Brentwood Council suggested Brentwood Town’s main pitch and stadium will move to land closer to Hatch Road, while two 3G pitches and five grass pitches will be built on land closer to the A12.

A feasibility report from 4global Consulting indicates that the Football Foundation sees the project to be of “significant strategic value” to the delivery of the organisation’s priorities in Essex, and as such would be prepared to commit £1.3million to the total £3.5million cost of Phase 1 of the project, that would also see new changing rooms and a 200-space car park.

Brentwood Council could contribute £1.5million towards Phase 1. The shortfall would need to be identified from other funding sources.

It is thought the phase one element could generate around £30,000 a year.

Phase 2, which includes the construction of a new Brentwood Town FC stadium, changing rooms and 70-space car park, would require an additional £1.5million – bringing the total capital expenditure projected for the project to £5million.

The total social value projected to be generated by installing two 3G pitches to the Brentwood Centre site is expected to be £561,9911 per year.

Over a 10-year life span of the facility, this equates to £5.61million of benefits and savings in social value for the facility alone.

The project, which is unlikely to start for at least two years, will likely follow the £7million revamp of the King George’s playing fields site – including a new pavilion building, splash pad and a new outdoor adventure play area – that received planning permission last month.

In the meantime the Brentwood Sunday League says as many as 12 teams made up of residents of Brentwood who would prefer to play at sites within the borough and currently cannot due to a lack of pitch availability.

Furthermore, some of the pitches that are used are simply not of sufficient quality.

At present the league is having to turn teams away from joining as these teams cannot access an appropriate pitch regularly.

Several teams noted the lack of quality of pitches meant many matches had to be cancelled during times of heavy rainfall.

This either leads to fixtures backing up and then teams overplaying towards the end of the season, or the pitches being used before they are ready and damaged until the end of the season.

Councillor Chris Hossack, leader of Brentwood Council, said: “We need to massively upgrade and increase the provision of football in Brentwood. The clubs are so successful they are the victims of their own success.

“Hutton Football Club is the largest community club in Essex. We have to work really hard to increase the capacity for kids and others to play football.

“Girls football is growing – so where are we going to put them?

“Participation is way up. We have to do the best we can.”

Feasibility work is also being undertaken on whether to undertake a refurbishment or rebuild the Brentwood Centre, which opened in 1988 and now needs huge investment to bring it up to date.

Cllr Hossack added: “It was only last month King George’s received planning permission.

“Then we need to go into a build phase, then we need to turn our attention to the Brentwood Centre.

“We have already started, but we need to look at the whole thing.

“Our leisure strategy makes it clear we would do this at a step at a time. King George’s was step one.

“We said that King George’s was a rugby hub and Brentwood Centre was a football hub.

“Once King George’s is up and running as a rugby hub in association with Brentwood Rugby Club then we need to create capacity for football at the Brentwood Centre.

“There is some urgency but we are only a small local authority and these are big projects.

“But we have spent money on the feasibility and once you have something on paper you have something to talk about.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter