Statement by Craig Riches, Heybridge Swifts Chairman.
In 2014 The Swifts celebrated 50 years at the Scraley Road ground and now after many years of planning, the club is finally at the point when our proposals for the next 50 years are submitted to Maldon DC and the wider public. It is no exaggeration to say that this is the most important moment in the clubs history and will determine whether we will continue to function as a major benefit to the community of Heybridge. I would therefore like to deal with some of the main questions that have been raised.
Why do the Swifts need to move?
With our current facilities being up to 50 years old, they naturally do not come up to current standards. The clubhouse needs to be completely rebuilt to provide the required size of changing rooms and up to date facilities. The pitch lighting system requires renewal, again to meet improving FA and environmental standards. The cost of the sticking plaster repairs that we have got by with in the last few years is now becoming unaffordable.
On the youth side, we have 14 teams plus the 4 to 7 year old “mini-kickers” operating from a shed adjacent to the youth pitch, which is increasingly inadequate and particularly unsuitable now that we are actively encouraging more girls to play for our club.
The move will enable us to provide all these facilities in one new low maintenance building with the very important addition of a main 3G artificial pitch, which will allow us to offer the use of these facilities to schools and the wider community. Going forward these facilities will allow us to launch our football for all initiative, encouraging more women and girls to play along with offering the right environment for disabled and walking football.
The Swifts only asset is its ground and the sale is our only means of achieving all or any of the above.
Who will own all the Swifts new assets?
Heybridge Swifts FC (incorporating the Youth Club) is a members club owned 100% by the members. The club and new ground and facilities will continue to be 100% owned by the members. The club is directly purchasing the new site from the current landowner. No redevelopment will be allowed on the Scraley Road site until the new facilities are in place and the developer will have no ongoing interest in the new ground once the building work is complete.
Are we proposing a big increase in size compared to our current facilities?
Within our current ground we have a main stadium pitch, youth and practice pitches which will be the same size and number at the new ground. The main building will be larger in order to accommodate the extra (and increased size) changing and treatment rooms. Otherwise the clubhouse bar is only slightly larger than we have at present and will continue to host all its current activities ranging from Community Group Meetings to Bingo nights. In our initial plans we were proposing a separate function room, which would have been an addition to what we have currently; however this has now been completely removed from the scheme. The two storey part is included mainly for architectural reasons and will give us room to expand the educational and training activities without needing to add any extensions.
Could the Swifts sell the new ground and move again in a few years’ time?
The proposed new ground is in Flood Zone 3 which is why we are able to purchase at an affordable price. Flood Zone 3 is not acceptable for housing, it is however acceptable for sports facilities. Also the covenants attached to our purchase will mean that the major part of any future increase in value, due to a change of use, would go to the current land owner, so this is definitely a one off for us.
How will this proposal affect the neighbouring properties at the new ground?
We have, I believe, had a good relationship with our neighbours at Scraley Road, both the houses on one side, private equestrian and fishery businesses on the other. This is despite our out of date lighting and equipment.
The new main and practice pitch will use very efficient floodlighting which will also be enhanced with the addition of louvres to the lights nearest to the northern and eastern boundaries, which the lighting report shows virtually eliminates any light spread beyond the boundaries. The PA system speakers will be localised around the main stadium and will produce much less sound beyond the ground than our present system. Also following the exhibition in March, we have made substantial changes to further minimise any impact.
So we are confident that we will continue to be good neighbours.
How will the new ground affect traffic and drainage?
A new entrance junction is proposed together with some improvement to the Heybridge Basin junction. The improvements will provide turning lanes to the new ground from one way and to the Basin from the other. Pedestrian islands will also be incorporated to ease road crossing. Detailed consultations have taken place with the highway authority. Within the site there is more than enough spaces for normal activities and for the exceptional matches that could take place (two in the last fifteen years) we have plenty of overspill area. Parking will not be allowed or needed on the access road. As matches do not occur at peak traffic times, there should be no resulting congestion. This is in any event covered in the application.
Surface water will all be contained on site and drained via storage and swales in accordance with the latest SUD’s standards.
We know that we have the overwhelming support of our Heybridge members and we hope to have the same support from the Heybridge public. This will be a great asset for the community as a whole and especially our children.
It is often only objectors who get the attention, so if you support what we are trying to do, then please make your voice heard by writing to the council at the appropriate time and also the local paper