March’s Estover Playing Field could become a much-needed sports hub if a last-ditch attempt to save the site comes off.
Cambridgeshire County Council is considering a plan for housing and sports facilities on the 18-acre field, which has sparked some outrage in the town.
Council leader Steve Count is now hoping to convince his colleagues to give the field back to the town to provide vital sports facilities – but is appealing for residents’ help.
Under his motion, which will go before the next full council meeting on Thursday, February 12, Cllr Count will be proposing that 10.8 acres be leased to March Town Council and the Estover Playing Field Association for 99 years to create a sports hub.
He will also be proposing that the remainder be leased to the groups on a seven-year lease to increase the sporting provision.
It is hoped these leases will help the parish council and association to access funding from groups like the Football Association, to put improved facilities on the field.
March is short of 19 hectares of sports facilities.
Cllr Count said: “We have some facilities in March with the rugby club, cricket club, hockey club and a playing field at Neale Wade but, for the size of the town, March is vastly short of facilities.
“The county council has an obligation sometimes to not just look at finances. I know our budgets are extremely difficult at the moment but if we develop on this land, it will be gone forever. That is the argument, the people of March have made to me and I will be trying to use it to convince the people in the council chamber.
“I am not confident of success but I am hoping for success. There are no more arrows in my bow.”
The sports hub is hoped to include adult and junior football pitches, tennis courts, a cricket pavillion, along with a multi-use games area.
Cllr Count is hoping the people of March will support his bid.
He said: “I think the local community has to carry on doing exactly what they are doing by fighting for this field.”
If Cllr Count’s motion is approved by the full council, there would be no future threat apart from an unlikely call in by the secretary of state.
The playing field could be worth between £300,000 and £6 million if planning permission was granted.
The plan has received support from leading members of Fenland District Council.
Mike Cornwell, community portfolio cabinet, said: “We have absolute proof that we have very poor sport and exercise participation in Fenland, especially here in March. Childhood obesity is a problem and to be quite honest we have an area of March which is not scoring very high in some of the health outcomes.”
District council leader John Clark is backing the bid.
He said: “I am delighted by the announcment of Cllr Count’s motion to enhance sport and leisure provision on Estover, along with protecting a valuable public space.
“I will certainly be offering my full support to this motion when it is presented at the full council meeting in February.”
Mayor of March Town Council, Kit Owen will be discussing the motion with his colleagues.
He said: “It would be wrong for me to fully commit without having consulted with the town council.”