Multi-million pound plans have been unveiled to create a huge new state-of-the-art sports complex in St Leonards.
The exciting development - potentially the biggest sporting venture the town has ever seen - would give Hastings United Football Club a 3,000 capacity stadium, and a new home for Hastings & St Leonards Priory Cricket Club and South Saxons Hockey Club.
Combe Valley Sports Village, as the project has been named (although that’s not necessarily what the venue would be called), would be situated on the middle two tiers of the existing Bexhill Road playing fields.
As well as the football stadium, the site would also feature adult and junior cricket pitches, floodlit artificial grass pitches (catering for football, rugby and American football), several grass football pitches, an artificial sand-dressed hockey pitch (also to cater for tennis and football), two squash courts, and facilities for netball and petanque.
What’s more, there would be a four-court indoor sports hall, a 120-station gym and educational facilities for Sussex Coast College Hastings, plus additional facilities for social and club activity.
The project would be financed by a quality residential development at The Pilot Field - Hastings United’s present home - and a residential development at Horntye Park Sports Complex in Bohemia Road - where South Saxons and Hastings Priory are currently based.
It’s the culmination of 18 months’ work involving Hastings United, the trustees of Horntye Park, which would relocate to the sports village if approval is given by the charity commissioners and Sport England for it to do so, and their partners.
A statement from the Hastings United board of directors read: “The project will bring £70m of new investment into Hastings and St Leonards, made up of £58m housing and £12m sports facilities, and has been put together by Burney Group and Sherlock Consultancy along with a UK top 10 housebuilder in Keepmoat Homes.
“There will be economic, social and community benefits arising, plus inward investment and vitality, at no cost to Hastings Borough Council or the public purse. There will also be no adverse impact to existing facilities.”
The project has come about largely because the financial position of Horntye Park has been precarious ever since the venue opened in 2000 and Hastings United need to carry out expensive works to their much-loved but antiquated ground in Elphinstone Road. Redevelopment of the current sites is considered unfeasible.
Peter Finch, chairman of the Horntye Park management company, said: “The opportunity to relocate with new and replenished sporting and recreation facilities is too good a chance to be missed.
“In recent years the Trust has had to borrow money to exist and at one point bankruptcy was a possibility. The long term prospects are bleak as there is not sufficient revenue income to provide a surplus of funds to replenish and replace failing and worn out facilities.”
“I sincerely hope Hastings Borough Council and the people of Hastings and St Leonards look carefully at all the benefits that could be available to our town if this proposal reaches fruition and that they will give the scheme their wholehearted support.”
The next step for those involved in the project, which would also include the implementation of flood mitigation measures at Combe Valley, is to finalise the way forward with Hastings Borough Council and Rother District Council, and submit a planning application early next year.
Rother District Council is the planning authority for the proposed sports village and the site itself is owned by Hastings Borough Council.
If the application is approved, Hastings United, the Horntye Park Trust and their partners are targeting a 2018 completion for the start of the 2018/19 football season. The football club and the sports clubs using Horntye Park would not move from their existing sites until the new facilities are ready.
Hastings Borough Council spokesman Kevin Boorman said: “We’re looking forward to receiving more details about the plans and obviously the council will take a formal view when it’s appropriate to do so.”
Hastings United will discuss the plans with supporters in a meeting at The Pilot Field clubhouse next Thursday (November 10) from 7.30pm.
See our comprehensive sports coverage in the Observer every Friday.
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