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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Mid & East Antrim Council back £250k funding bid for new 3G pitch

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council logo on wall

Mid and East Antrim councillors have agreed to support a £250k funding bid for a new 3G pitch at Wellington Rec Football Club in Larne.

Councillors approved financial backing for the Millbrook-based club at a meeting of the council on Monday evening.

The club has been praised for its partnership approach to funding for the new £810k facility. It is currently awaiting the outcome of a funding application to the IFA (Irish Football Association) which is expected within the next few months.

Speaking at the council meeting, Larne Lough DUP Councillor Gregg McKeen proposed the local authority accepts the recommendation to approve a maximum of £250k funding for the pitch.

Cllr McKeen said: “I have seen the work and success of Wellington Rec over the past number of years.”

He went on to say there are not enough all-weather facilities in the borough to meet need.

Bannside TUV Councillor Timothy Gaston praised Wellington Rec’s approach to fund-raising as “visionary” adding he was “happy to second”.

Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Councillor Roy Beggs stated: “We have already learnt of the shortage of 3G and 4G pitches in the borough. It may have some scope for others to benefit from it as well.

“They have shown great leadership in drawing down funding from a wide range of bodies.”

Sinn Fein Coast Road Councillor James McKeown stated: “I would support the application. They do an awful lot of work in their community. I would ask the council to work with other sports clubs in the area that have not the same profile.”

Last month, Mid and East Antrim councillors supported a motion for a review of sports pitches in the borough to identify areas of need and target funding towards expansion.

Cllr McKeen reported that one club in the borough has spent £40k per annum for use of a 3G pitch outside the borough.

Welcoming the council’s decision, Gary Morrow, chair of Wellington Rec Youth Academy, indicated the local authority will provide funding if the club’s application to the IFA is successful.

He said fund-raising by the club to provide the remainder of the finance is continuing as part of a five-year project to replace its grass pitch. He went on to say the club faces a bill of £27k annually to use external facilities for training including those at Inver Park and The Cliff in Seacourt.

He noted a shortage of 3G facilities in the Larne area.

“We do not have enough winter training facilities. 3G are all-weather pitches.”

He went on to say the club has plans to expand but has reached its “full quota” at present with approximately 230 children and more than 40 seniors and demand is continuing to grow.

“Since the success of Larne Football Club, football in the town has really taken off.  It has really shot to a different level. There is a definite need for these facilities in Larne. It is not that demand is not there. We could do with a lot more facilities.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published a report last year analysing pitch provision across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which was then broken down into council area showing that Mid and East Antrim had a deficit of 72,032 hours of unmet demand.

The report suggested that deficit could grow by more than 50% by 2030.


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