'Complete negligence' - anger as sports clubs locked out of playing fields
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Halesworth sports clubs and residents have expressed their frustration after the town's playing fields were locked up without prior notice.
The Dairy Hill Sports Complex, near the railway station, is home to Halesworth Town FC, Halesworth Town Juniors and Halesworth Tennis Club.
But members were left shocked after discovering the ground's pavilion and gate to the sports fields were locked when they tried to start playing again when Covid lockdown measures eased at the end of March.
Halesworth Community Sport and Leisure (HCSL), the charity that owns the land, has said the site has been closed due to the findings of a safety inspection.
A petition calling for the facilities to be reopened has been launched online and gathered more than 1,200 signatures.
In a Halesworth Town Council meeting on Monday evening, the clubs urged community leaders to step in and help resolve the issue.
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Will Kerslake, chairman of Halesworth Town FC, questioned whether it was acceptable "to change all the locks without informing us first".
He also said he was "shocked" about the conduct of HCSL and said it was "not the way" to run a charity.
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Claire Chenery, chairman of Halesworth Town Juniors, added: "Stopping the children from playing, especially after months of lockdown, is a welfare issue in itself and complete negligence.
"We do not believe HCSL are interested in supporting the football club."
David Thomas, chairman of HCSL, said the charity had been advised to keep the site closed by insurers due to the findings of a fire and safety inspection last year.
Mr Thomas, who was a town councillor but resigned from the council during the meeting, said in a statement: "Given the fire safety inspection failures and after consultation with insurers, the pavilion was closed.
"Due to the problems that were beyond trustees' control, the work that is required has been delayed.
"Trustees are still moving forward with developing the Dairy Hill site."
Mr Thomas also said he had offered his resignation to HCSL trustees but was yet to formally step down.
David Wollweber, Halesworth Town Council chairman, believed the sports club's trust in HCSL had "gone".
Town councillors passed a motion to formally call for Mr Thomas to step down from his position as chairman of the charity.