A plan for grassroots sport that must not be allowed to falter

Warren View in Exmouth. Ref exe 48 18TI 5662

Warren View in Exmouth. Ref exe 48 18TI 5662 - Credit: Archant

Warren View Sports Ground has a special place in the hearts and memories of many Exmouthians.

As a boy, I played there regularly and after school in the spring and summer months, I used to jump over the fence with a few mates where we’d kick a ball about until it got dark.

This trespass was clearly tolerated. However, around a decade ago, the ground fell into serious neglect. When I visited the site during the dark days of the pandemic with the head of Exmouth Town Football Club’s youth section, the site was a terrible mess with one of the pitches totally waterlogged. Flooding in recent days has waterlogged this pitch again.

Following agreement from myself and others, Warren View will be receiving £3,000 from the Community Infrastructure Levy for urgent drainage works, with a further £20,000 ringfenced for further investment.

In May 2019, I made a quite ambitious pledge in my leaflet that I would work to ensure Warren View is brought back into use. At that time, the site had been left to rot by the Conservative leadership. Since then it has been an uphill battle to understand the history of the site and try to bring it back into use.

Finally in March I managed to win a commitment from the leader and deputy leader of the council to formally put the site out to tender again. Three excellent bids were made, but Exmouth Town FC’s stood out with their ambition to work with other sport clubs and schools to maximise the ground’s potential. They have not disappointed, with the club having pulled together their army of volunteers in recent weeks to get their two pitches up to a playable standard. But the flooding shows that further investment is required to improve the pitches.

We will endeavour to access grant money from the FA and the National Lottery to build an artificial turf training pitch in the far corner, to create a facility for the boxing club to use, and to renovate the tired clubhouse.

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For me it was a necessity to ensure the local club taking on the site had the tools to renovate the site, so I am glad to see the council charge a fair rent. This is so the club can make sure they are investing in improving the site, not just maintaining it, which a ‘commercial’ rent would not allow them to do. They reinvest every penny of their ticket and bar revenue from Southern Road into the club, they employ local people, use local companies and are a shining example of how to run a community sports club. The Tory administration which lost power in 2019 obsessed over commercialising our council. But in my view our council should not pretend to be a private company - we are enablers of the growth of our town’s community.

Security at the site and anti-social behaviour has been an issue for the residents of Halsdon Avenue and Mudbank Lane in recent years while the site has been unoccupied. With the large number of teams and volunteers Exmouth Town’s youth section has, they will have a visible presence at the ground every day which in my view will secure the site. Investing in the youth section will boost the first team which, if promoted, will benefit the town’s economy as away fans travel from longer distances.

We have severe lack of grassroots sport pitches for a town of its size. That sad fact was borne out by the council’s 2015 Playing Pitch Strategy and has unwelcome consequences on the health and wellbeing for the people of Exmouth. One of my priorities is to ensure our new strategy doesn’t fail to turn into action like the last one. With new developments springing up across the town, it is the responsibility of all local elected representatives to work towards a higher standard of indoor and outdoor sporting facilities that will help the town thrive.

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