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Date added: 09 March 2013

Highworth Sporting Hub 

Who are the real winners and losers of this proposal?
  
As plans go on display for the multi-million pound Highworth Sporting Hub project located on the Upper and Lower Rec fields and current 9-hole Pitch and Putt site, the consultation process offers Highworth’s residents the opportunity to reflect upon the real winners and losers of this proposal.
 
The rationale of the Sporting Hub is to “improve sporting opportunities, benefit health, well-being and youth engagement”, - a contentious statement as the current concept fails to offer any additional sports to Highworth’s current provision and indeed would reduce the provisions for the golfing community; nor is there any evidence to suggest that the other benefits would be met.
 
The Upper and Lower Rec fields currently possess a fair balance of organised sport for a minority of users and adequate space for those wishing to use these recreational grounds for informal, spontaneous leisure activities.
 
Highworth Rec
 
‘WINNERS’ can clearly be identified as Highworth’s Senior Football Club, Junior Football Club and the Cricket Club. They would each, under the current concept, benefit from new pitches and an extended clubhouse with café/bar facilities.
 
In addition to these pitches, an All Weather Pitch has been included on these plans. This raises yet another crucial decision for the residents of Highworth as Warneford School possesses approved planning permission for an All Weather Pitch at the school site thus providing efficient use of this facility by Highworth’s local children.
 
This school site also provides adequate car parking for users of the All-weather Pitch outside of school hours, which would significantly reduce the requirement to build an additional 200 car parking spaces and coach park under the Sporting Hub’s plans.
 
‘LOSERS’ in contrast form a much wider group of stakeholders due to the huge impact of this proposal on Highworth’s open spaces.
 
The residents of Highworth would lose a significant proportion of recreational space with enforcements on the land which would restrict access to the enclosed pitches predominantly at weekends when the majority of residents utilise this space.
 
Highworth Warneford School
Warneford School is an obvious loser as Highworth’s local academy would have to use the All-Weather pitch on the Rec site, resulting in children losing a substantial amount of their time for sport being escorted to these fields.
 
Consequentially this proposal would have a huge environmental impact, destroying ecosystems via the removal of hedgerows and mature trees, building car parks and extending an existing clubhouse on existing green space, annihilating the natural contours and picturesque views of the current pitch and putt site due to the significant levelling of land, and drainage issues.
 
Highworth Residents' Group
 
In a response to the Sporting Hub Committee’s proposal a group of residents from across the town have consolidated to form the ‘Highworth Residents Group’.
 
" We would like the residents of Highworth to take the opportunity to review the concept plan at the Sporting Hub drop-in sessions. Should these plans be agreed it would change the landscape of our hill-top town forever! We embrace, participate in, and support sport in Highworth however wish to seek a balance between sport and recreation”.

Questionnaires from the Sporting Hub proposers will be delivered to all residents in Highworth over the coming weeks. It is hoped that the questionnaires will present a neutral, balanced set of questions on the Sporting Hub proposals and their impact, rather than a generic opportunity to declare support for sport.

Over the coming months Highworth faces a huge dilemma, what is truly best for our town and its residents; and should recreational space for all be sacrificed for yet more organised sport for a minority of users, the majority of which do not reside in the town?
 
This is not about withdrawing sporting opportunities and facilities from our community, but locating these amenities on the most suitable sites thereby enabling optimum usage by Highworth residents!
RELATED LINKS
Highworth Sporting Hub - Proposal
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