A BREWING clash between Whitchurch United Football Club (WUFC) and Whitchurch Town Council regarding lease terms for the Mill Springs football pitches, also known as the Barry Jackman Sports Pitches, has stirred up community disappointment and frustration.

The dispute, which has left many residents and sports enthusiasts disheartened, centres around the inability to reach an agreement over the lease for the Mill Springs pitches.

Three pitches were built using Section 106 contributions from the developer of Mill Springs project and were handed over to the town council with a dowry payment for maintenance for 25 years.

According to the council, two of these pitches and the pavilion were then upgraded to FA standards at a cost of £173,256.66 which was taken from the dowry.

This left a dowry of £142,743.34 to maintain the whole site which has been transferred to the council.

However, the council has not been able to reach a lease agreement with the club.

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In a letter, WUFC chair Julie Myall expressed "huge regret and much frustration" over the club's inability to secure the lease.

She criticised the town council's terms and said they were non-comparable to those of the surrounding areas. She added that the council's "take it or leave it" approach forced WUFC to leave the lease agreement due to the ambiguous and burdensome terms.

Ms Myall later told the Gazette that the council asked WUFC to take over the ground for 10 years for a peppercorn rent, but the club would be responsible for marking the pitches and erecting a fence.

“But we would be able to use those pitches for three hours a week,” she said.

“We have 30 playing adults, 265 youth players and 120 girls in our club. Three hours a week is not enough for these players. There was also a dilapidations clause included in the lease which meant we would have to get them back to the right state after 10 years. It was just not worth it.

“And then the frustrating thing about the whole thing is because they won't talk to you, you can't have a conversation. We repeatedly asked for them to create a working party to enable us to have a conversation to discuss the issues and explain our reasoning behind why we need things changing. But they felt unable to do that and selected their own process which has gone on for many, many years.”

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A sense of disappointment pervades the club and the local community now, as the youth players of Whitchurch United are now facing the prospect of not being able to use these pitches, developed using Section 106 money to fulfil the community's need for local football facilities.

Whitchurch Town Council issued a response on Facebook to the WUFC statement, offering their perspective on the matter.

In this update, the council said it aimed to accommodate the club's needs while balancing the cost to the community.

It said the club's inability to agree to the lease prompted the council to offer the club first refusal on hiring the pitches.

The club however refused to agree the fee of £50 per match for U18s on the FA pitches as the pitch in Picket Twenty, Andover, is priced at £30.95.

The council said Picket Twenty pitch is owned and managed by the borough council, and the town council could not compete with the same pricing.

Whitchurch Town Council chairman and mayor Cllr Tracy Woodruff has been contacted for a comment.