Westfield of dreams: Brave new world lies ahead for village football club
After 18 long years, a new era beckons Westfield FC.
The Westfield Downs Project has finally been given the go ahead as developers and landowners exchange contracts.
Bulldozers and diggers are already on site, flattening and moving the ground, and the football club can dream about the day they will have a new ground. It will be fit for senior adult football and a base with facilities to provide youth football for the village and surrounding areas.
Westfield FC chairman Jack Stapley said: “The Westfield Down Project (WDP) has been an important prospect for the community for several years. The land owners, Westfield Parish Council, and the local authority have been working on the plan to provide substantial community recreation facilities and housing on land between the GP surgery and the cricket ground.
“Informal negotiations began in 2003. Later a formal proposal was submitted to the planning authority and following a public consultation and government inspection, this proposal achieved policy status in the Local District Plan in 2006.
"The proposal allocates one hectare of land nearest the surgery for housing, and the remaining 2.5 hectares for general community recreation use, including football pitches.
“In 2007 a change of use planning application was granted to the parish council for the football and recreation elements of the scheme.
“The parish council has applied twice to renew this permission for another three years. Renewals were granted in July 2010 and in 2013.
“In June 2014 an outline planning application for the housing element was approved, subject to a Section 106 agreement which establishes the contribution required from the planning gain to be made towards to the community recreation and football part of the scheme.
“A lot of people never believed we’d see the day that works started on The Downs project, including many within the football club recently.
“With Covid restrictions and other issues it all seemed a pipe dream, but credit must go to the parish council and everyone who has continued to push this project forward.”
The club thanked Graham Drinkwater, Mick Kempster, Hamish Munro, Roger Carrier, Kevin Baker, Melvyn Young, John Archer, Peter Bentley, Gill Attewell, Jon Attewell and George Chapman for their efforts and said many people had played their part.
Stapley added: “We are really looking forward to working with the developers in the way the ground will be set up and constructed.
“It’s set to include fully segregated changing rooms fit for the modern standard of senior football, a stand to house supporters with seating and cover, four-sided hard standing with a pitch perimeter barrier system, freshly laid dugouts, a pitch that has the FA specifications for new pitches to include purpose-built drainage. This can then be upgraded to include a new clubhouse, floodlights and further seating arrangements when required.
“Obviously this news has caused a massive buzz within the club and plans are already being talked about surrounding what we can do next.
“But this is a long process. The land is very overgrown and there is a lot of work to be done.
“We are, however, confident that working together between the developers, football club and parish council,, we can overcome the hurdles and get senior football back to the village.”
Stapley added his thanks to all who had been involved in the project before him, and said he was looking forward to meeting the developers and parish council the forge a good working relationship and plan the way ahead.
“This is a massive step forward for the football club and the village as a whole,” he said.
“I hope it will bring many years of successful sport and community togetherness to the village with the extra facilities that will be available going forward.”