United stadium bid takes step forward

Hastings United Football Club has taken the next step on the road to relocation by presenting a business plan to the local authority.

The far-reaching scheme to move out of the ageing Pilot Field stadium is seen as crucial to the future of the Ryman Premier League club.

Chairman Dave Walters said: "Without a new facility the football club may struggle to survive another decade and for a town the size of Hastings this cannot be allowed to happen.

"A new stadium could help propel the club up the non-league ladder to a status more befitting to a town that has a greater population than Wigan which boasts a Premiership football club."

The club feels the time is right to consider selling the site in Elpinstone Road and St Leonards' old ground at The Firs above it for housing and use the money to build a new state-of-the-art 8.8 million stadium and other sporting facilities.

Walters went on: "The town's senior side has been housed at the ageing stadium since the early part of the last century and is finding that the upkeep is growing more expensive each season, especially with ground grading criteria becoming more and more stringent.

"The possibility of a relocation of the club was explored with Hastings Borough Council some 15 years ago but discussions never got beyond a very preliminary stage.

"The club is both conscious and aware that it will need to work with and listen very closely to the views of Hastings Borough Council which owns the freehold to both The Pilot Field and The Firs sites.

"The Pilot Field is old and outdated and needs replacing and The Firs site, since the demise of St Leonards FC a few years ago, has become run down and been subject to vandalism. Although the club does not own the lease to The Firs, it is felt that inclusion of this land in the project is essential to make it viable.

"The sale of The Pilot Field and The Firs sites could generate sufficient capital to not only build a new football stadium but to also provide on the same site other much-needed additional sporting facilities for the borough. It is hoped that a third generation all-weather pitch could be built alongside a new stadium."

The scheme to relocate received largely cross-party support from councillors in September when the club was instructed to compile a business plan which numbers some 40 pages.

The Pilot Field and The Firs have been valued at a minimum of 9.6m and the preferred venue for relocation is Queensway. The club would like the new ground to follow the blueprint of Dartford FC's environmentally-friendly stadium which cost 7.5m.

"The ball is now firmly in Hastings Borough Council's court but the club feels very optimistic that this is a shared vision and looks forward to working with HBC to make this project happen," Walters added.

Anyone interested in finding out more should initially write to Hastings United FC chairman David Walters at The Pilot Field, Elphinstone Road, Hastings TN34 2AX.