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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Concerns over pitch pricing as council considers “consistency” across borough

3G sports pitch

Mid and East Antrim Council is reviewing pricing for its sports pitches for “consistency” across the borough.

A report presented to the council’s Environment and Economy Committee at a meeting at The Braid in Ballymena, on Tuesday evening, said the local authority has more than 30 grass pitches and 20 Multi-Use Games Areas (MUGA).

Councillors were informed the aim of the review is to “ensure consistency” of pricing across the borough.

The report said that pitch booking and lighting prices vary between Larne and Carrickfergus and in some cases, rates are less than those charged in the Mid Antrim area with the grass, changing and training rate in Larne being the most expensive of the three areas.

“There are also varying rates charged for 3G facilities and this is due to the varying sizes of these facilities. With plans in place to invest heavily in new 3G facilities, especially in the East Antrim area, council needs a robust pricing system in place to ensure that it can afford to undertake the brushing, cleaning and general maintenance required to prolong the lifespan of these new facilities.

“It is therefore proposed that the Carrickfergus and Larne pitch prices mirror the agreed pricing structure for Mid and East Antrim grass and synthetic pitches.”

Speaking at the meeting, Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Councillor Roy Beggs said:

“I agree with the concept of having more equal costs. This may result in some very large increases. Some would have a 50 per cent increase. If you have a small voluntary group, a 50 per cent increase is a very large sum.”

However, Cllr Beggs warned against pricing some groups “out of the market”. “There is no point having high costs and nobody using them. We need to have a degree of flexibility.”

Larne Lough Alliance Alderman Robert Logan also advised against the council pricing itself “out of the market”.

Operations director Philip Thompson said the local authority “charges a very modest rate”, especially in Ballymena, compared to some other facilities.

Larne Lough DUP Cllr Gregg McKeen remarked:

“When you look at Sandy Bay and Antiville, you would be embarrassed to ask for an increase at Antiville.”

He went on to say at Sandy Bay there is access to a pavilion but in Antiville, there is no access to toilets or changing facilities at the council-owned pitch.

Coast Road Sinn Fein Cllr James McKeown said he is aware of two clubs that travel out of the borough to Antrim and Newtownabbey to use pitches because it “works out cheaper”.

Ballymena DUP Cllr Lawrie Philpott commented some clubs pay more to use school pitches.

Cllr Beggs proposed approving the new draft pitch pricing policy subject to a follow-up report, seconded by Braid DUP Cllr William McCaughey.


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