At last! Work is under-way to construct £500K sports pavilion at Estover Playing Field in March
It's been well over 30 years in the making but today (Monday) was a momentous one for sports fans in March as work got under-way on a new £500,000 pavilion at Estover Playing Field.
Campaigners fought for decades for improved sports facilities at Estover Playing Field but a previous reluctance by the landowning Cambridgeshire County Council to grant a long-term lease stymied progress.
But that is history and now, with a 99-year lease at a peppercorn rent safely secured by March Town Council,work began on Monday with Kit Owen, chairman of the Estover Playing Field board of trustees cutting the first sod for the new pavilion.
There is still a bit of a technical hitch - around £300,000 is still needed to provide all the facilities wanted within the building - but that is a worry for another day.
The pavilion,which will be finished sometime next spring, will be fully functional with changing rooms, toilets and a recreational room and any additional facilities such as a bar can be added later once the extra money has been found.
Work is also well under-way on a new £150,000 multi-use games area which will have a hard surface and will be suitable for football, netball,basket-ball and possibly cricket training. Fenland District Council provided £100,000 towards the cost of this floodlit facility and it is due to be completed by this September.
Cambridgeshire County Council leader Councillor Steve Count, who was instrumental in obtaining the 99-year lease for the town council,joined March Town members including mayor Councillor Jan French and contractors to watch Councillor Owen dig the first sod to get the pavilion construction under-way.
Dog walkers need not be dismayed as they will still be welcome to walk their pets on the field, but there is a suggestion their may be a designated area to try to ensure the sports area's remain free of dog poo.
There was delight all round that March is finally getting some urgently needed sports facilities.
Coun Owen said: "This really is an 'at last moment' we have waited a long time for this and it is great to finally see work getting started. A survey about six years ago showed March only had 43 per cent of the football pitches it needs, there will be 10 pitches here at Estover, with proper changing facilities, which is great.
"We have the necessary funding to build the pavilion but we are still looking for a further £300,000 of funding so we can provide everything we want to here. We hope the recreational room will be well-used and that is more likely if we can get a bar fitted,but that is not currently included in this work."
He added the current project does not include a 3G pitch after the town council rejected an offer of funding by the Football Association to provide one.
The £650,000 offered by the footballing body came with "too many strings attached" and would have interfered too greatly in what the town council was aiming to achieve.
Coun Count said: "It is great Estover Playing Field finally belongs to the people of March. I'm delighted the county council agreed to grant the 99-year lease to enable this to happen and it's great to see work finally under-way."
Coun French, who hopes the playing fields will become a community hub, added: "I asked the question about a longer lease back in 1990when I first became a town councillor and have been pushing for it ever since. This is going to be a great asset for the people of March and I'm delighted it is finally all coming together for the town."
A sentiment echoed by town councillor Martin Field who said: "I think this is going to be a great new facility. Football is very popular and I am sure the community will make great use of this."
Now it is up to join pavilion contractors Rutterford Construction and Batchelor Carpentry Ltd to get on with constructing the long dream of building.