Hastings council leaders have agreed to move ahead with plans which could see a new football stadium built in the town.
Hastings Borough Council’s cabinet agreed to support a Hastings United FC scheme to build a home at the Tilekiln Recreation Ground in Hollington, by agreeing in principle to the sale of council-owned land at a meeting on Monday (November 5).
While still at an early stage, the council says the proposals are expected to include the construction of a 1,950-capacity stadium as well as new gym facilities and two additional football pitches for community use. The overall scheme is expected to be funded through the sale of the club’s current ground at Pilot Field – a council-owned site in Baird ward – to housing developers.
According to council documents, the scheme was put forward by Hastings United FC after housing developer Keepmoat Homes withdrew from the Combe Valley Sports Village project earlier this year.
Commenting on the plans Council leader Peter Chowney said: “This scheme is smaller and does not involve Horntye, but I still think that it has got a lot potentially going for it.
“It would be creating both a new stadium and sports facilities in Hollington which is one of the most deprived wards in Hastings and is consequently one of the most deprived wards in the south of England. Although it is true that Baird is also one of the most deprived wards in Hastings.
“I think one of the criticisms of Hastings United that many people have made is that [currently] the stadium doesn’t provide much for the local community whereas this would.
“What we are looking at here is an offer that offers a lot more in terms of community facilities in Hollington than the old stadium ever did in Baird.”
Responding to Cllr Chowney, Conservative group leader Rob Lee said: “I share your cautious optimism.
“Anything that can help our local football team achieve better things is very positive and I think that this scheme could potentially have some excellent benefits for Hollington and the surrounding area.
“One of the advantages for this location, over and above the previous scheme in Bexhill Road, is that this is much easier to access. One of the criticisms levelled at the old scheme – quite fairly I think – is that it was on the edge of town.
“Until we get down to some numbers – which is when I think this debate will really catch light – in principle at this stage I am happy to support the scheme.”
According to an officer’s report, the council’s support for the scheme would be subject to a number of factors including the backing of both the FA and Sports England.
The council says it would also expect the club to look at running a football academy for variety of age groups and to provide support for women’s football and disability football as a community club.
Commenting on this aspect of the proposals Cllr Judy Rogers said: “I really want to make sure that Hastings United – if they get this site and if goes ahead – are really pushed into working with women and girls, which is something they’ve not done to date.
“In April of this year there were 42,000 girls playing football in one month across the country. It is also the knock-on effect it has of training coaches and of encouraging referees who are female that can operate out of the club.
“These are opportunities in an area of social deprivation for young people to come forward. They might not be able to play but they can do other things.”
Further details of the proposals are expected to be published in January with the next steps expected to be considered in March at the earliest.