Horntye Park: Clubs could lose home venues if site is sold for housing

The cricket pitch in the foreground and sand-dressed artificial pitch in the background at Horntye Park Sports Complex
The cricket pitch in the foreground and sand-dressed artificial pitch in the background at Horntye Park Sports Complex

Hastings Priory Cricket Club and South Saxons Hockey Club are facing the possibility of losing their home venue later this year.

The pitches the two clubs currently use at Horntye Park Sports Complex could well be sold for housing, meaning they would have to find alternative venues to play their home matches.

Peter Finch, chairman of the Horntye Park management company, said: “We’re negotiating; nothing at this point is definite. There’s a very good chance cricket and hockey will conclude here at the end of the 2019 season.

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“In the event of that happening, the trustees will definitely have alternative plans to keep hockey and cricket in a strong position in the town.

“Nothing is definite. There are so many other bodies that have got a say in this. No decision has been made at this stage, but hopefully a decision will be made in the not-too-distant future.

“We’re negotiating other sites. At this stage all options are open. We’re actively looking for alternatives if the sale goes through.”

Finch added that while the cricket pitch (which also hosts youth football during the winter months) and sand-dressed artificial pitch (which is also used for football) would disappear if the sale goes through, the main Horntye Park building will remain and continue to operate as it currently does.

If the sale goes through, Hastings Priory Cricket Club would be able to play its 2019 home fixtures at Horntye Park, but would have to find an alternative venue for its 2020 games.

Hastings Priory chairman John Morgan said: “We’ll work with Horntye to find the best possible solution. It’s a little bit unsettling, but there’s always going to be positives out of things and there’s almost like a blank canvas to create something new.

“There are logistical issues, but I’m looking at this in a very positive way. Whilst Horntye is a lovely ground and it would be very sad because we’ve been up there since ‘95, I see this very much as an opportunity that we could have two cricket grounds (pitches) together with a nice pavilion and four changing rooms.”

South Saxons Hockey Club could have to play elsewhere in the 2019/20 season, which will start in late September.

Saxons chairman Jeremy Bunday said the club faces a problem in any case because its pitch, which was expected to have a 10-year lifespan when it was laid, is now in year 18 and funds aren’t in place for a new surface.

He said: “It’s hard to say very much at the moment because the details are still very unclear in terms of what the plan is and nothing is finalised.

“Effectively the pitch at Horntye is near on dead so we’ve been limping along for two or three years with a pitch that’s not great, but with very limited options given the availability of pitches - there aren’t many. It’s been a concern for a few years.

“If you look around, nowhere has a full size pitch in the local area which we can access at the moment on a Saturday. It is a concern.

“We’re working with Horntye with a view to getting a new pitch and if it’s better for Horntye that the pitch is moved, then within reason I guess South Saxons won’t mind where it is as long as it’s there.”

Bunday has been in contact with the Sussex Hockey Association about the situation, but says the club will wait to see what transpires with Horntye before deciding how best to proceed.

The financial position of Horntye Park has been precarious ever since the venue opened in 2000 and at one point bankruptcy was a possibility.

Back in 2016 plans were announced to relocate Horntye Park to the current Bexhill Road playing fields as part of the Combe Valley Sports Village project, along with the building of around 400 new homes at three sites in the town, including Horntye.

But those plans fell through after housebuilder Keepmoat Homes withdrew from the project in late 2017. Since then the Horntye Park trustees have been in discussion with others to ensure continuance of the charity’s operations.

Priory have three men’s teams, a ladies’ side and several youth (colts) teams. Saxons field four men’s teams, two ladies’ sides, two junior teams (Warriors and Arrows), and run weekly Sunday training sessions for more than 40 youngsters.