FA’s £650,000 grant offer for Estover Playing Field in March comes with ‘so many strings attached’

MP Steve Barclay with the letter from the FA confirming the offer of a �650,000 grant to Estover Playing Field.
MP Steve Barclay with the letter from the FA confirming the offer of a �650,000 grant to Estover Playing Field.

A £650,000 grant from the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund towards a pavilion and all-weather pitch at Estover Playing Field in March spells difficult decision making ahead for the committee set up to run it.

Local MP Steve Barclay announced news of the offer, which would help towards the installation of a 3G pitch, floodlights and a pavilion at the playing field, on Friday.

But Clive Lemmon, town clerk and treasurer of the Estover Playing Field Committee, said: “The letter is not all it seems and comes with many conditions and would see the cost of the project rise by many £100,000s on what March Town Council and Fenland District Council originally committed for the scheme and would see the FA more or less take control of the project.

“The grant offer comes with so many strings attached and would essentially be a small percentage contribution to what would become a huge scheme.”

He said the management committee has been aware of the grant offer for over two months, and has been holding “so many meetings” in recent weeks with the FA to talk about the conditions that would come with the cash. The committee itself is holding a meeting at the end of this month to discuss the way forward.

Mr Lemmon added: “We have got to balance the requirements of the FA, the aspirations of the town council and the co-operation of the clubs that are going to use the facilities and these three things are becoming increasingly complicated. We have got to temper people’s expectations.”

Mr Barclay however, was far more optimistic when making his announcement, and said: “I am delighted to have received written confirmation that Estover Park has been granted £650,000 for a new 3G pitch and floodlights from the Premier League and the FA Facilities Fund.

“This supports my on-going work to secure more funding for sport across the constituency. Thanks go to March Town Council, who have worked incredibly hard to secure this funding.”

Fenland District Council has pledged £100,000 with March Town Council committing £300,000 for the project, which was made possible after years of negotiations to protect the playing field from housing development culminated in Cambridgeshire County Council signing the field over to the town council in a 99-year lease and at a peppercorn rent.

Planning permission for the project including a state of the art all-weather sports pitch, eight different sized football pitches, dog walker field and modern pavilion was granted last January with hopes at that time the facilities would be open to the public this summer.