Local community representatives and elected politicians from Sidley joined together this week to form a community organisation with the purpose of purchasing the site of the former Sidley Sports and Social Ground and returning it back to the sporting community.
The sports club, on Glovers Lane, closed in 2013, leaving Sidley United Football Club and Sidley Cricket Club without a ground. The site has stood empty ever since and has been targeted by vandals. The clubhouse was torched by arsonists in February 2015. The land has since been the subject of three attempts to build up to 70 homes by its current owner, Beaulieu Homes (Southern) Limited.
This week, Rother District Council’s cabinet supported a recommendation that the site be designated within the council’s Development and Site Allocations Local Plan as being reserved for sports use with the inclusion of a full size all weather football pitch, changing facilities and community hub space. This reinforces the council’s long-standing presumption that the site remain in sports and recreation use. The site has already been designated as an Asset of Community Value, in recognition of the local importance of its sporting amenities.
The community group, comprising local community organisation Heart of Sidley, Sidley’s local cricket and football teams, Sidley’s District Councillor, Jimmy Carroll, Bexhill and Battle MP, Huw Merriman, and other local residents, are preparing plans to form a community entity to purchase the land, construct a new sports ground and facilities and manage it on a not-for-profit basis. A separate site is being scoped in order to host the cricket club. This follows a community engagement exercise which asked residents for their views on the best use of the site. Over 500 residents responded, with the conclusions due to be revealed at the Heart of Sidley’s Annual General Meeting later this month.
The community group are now seeking to recruit additional expertise and are inviting local solicitors and accountants to get on board to help with the exercise of purchasing the land from its current owners or exploring how the land can be compulsory purchased in order to deliver the sporting amenities which the land is reserved for.
Huw Merriman MP said “With the welcome designation by Rother District Council, we now believe that the owner of the sports ground has little option but to put it back to its sporting roots. We want to work with the owner to make this happen. However, if necessary, we will look at legal mechanisms which force this outcome. Sidley residents need a sporting venue to match the talents of their local teams. We have a great community group ready to put this into action. I am urging any local solicitors and accountants to get in touch and lend us their time and expertise to further help deliver this fantastic project.”
Heart of Sidley Chairman, Jay Carroll said “For a number of years it's been the ambition of the Heart of Sidley group to bring this ground back in to use for the benefit of the Sidley community and local sports clubs. We've spoken with many local residents and feel confident that the community supports our aim. We’re excited that things are starting to come together and that we have the support of key people and organisations to drive this project forward.”
Members of the public interested in giving their legal and financial expertise should contact Huw Merriman MP on email@example.com or attend the Heart of Sidley AGM on Thursday 11 October 6.30pm at All Saints Primary School to find out more.