Portsmouth sports club says homes plan is vital for survival

A CGI artist's impression of the proposed Moneyfields redevelopment. Picture: PLC Architects
A CGI artist's impression of the proposed Moneyfields redevelopment. Picture: PLC Architects

A BELOVED community sports club faces closure unless Portsmouth councillors approve its self-funded £2.5m redevelopment.

The Moneyfields Sports and Social Centre in Copnor is seeking approval at next week's (Sep 19) planning committee to sell approximately 20 per cent of the site as housing in order to fund the construction of a state-of-the-art complex.

Without the overhaul shareholders say they will be forced to close and sell all seven acres of land due to its state of disrepair and the club's continued loss of money.

One of the club's directors, Pete Seiden, said: 'The club has fallen to bits, the facilities are really bad. Despite the fact we're run mainly by volunteers we can't afford to stay open. If we fail at the planning meeting next week the club will shut.'

Currently the site on Moneyfield Avenue has two football pitches, a car park, a boxing club and a club house with a hall, bar and gym. If permission is granted the old club house would be knocked down and the site of the car park and boxing club used for 12 houses and 14 flats, with 49 parking spaces and 12 garages.

A new two-storey club house would be built between the pitches, replacing a row of trees and would include everything the old building had as well as the boxing club and extra offices.

There would also be room for a car park with 95 spaces, the second football pitch would be resurfaced with artificial grass to ensure play all year and a soundproofed fence would surround the site.

Mr Seiden, 48, added: 'People say that grassroots football is dying. They say that too many children are obese and that there are children hanging around on the streets with nothing to do. We want to change that, but we only can if we get approval.

'The people who are against this project don't seem to realise that the only alternative is that it will shut. They say 'why can't it just stay the way it is?''

Hilsea councillor, Cllr Scott Payter-Harris, was in support of the scheme. He said: 'I think it is a good long-term development for the Moneyfields Club and for Portsmouth as a whole.

'Housing is in much need and at the same time the club needs redeveloping. It supports the community in so many ways not just with sport but the blind club go there and the deaf club as well as many others. If the application doesn't go through then a lot of community groups will have nowhere to go.'

But the council's housing boss, Cllr Darren Sanders, was uncertain the project would benefit the community. It needs to maximise its benefits not just for itself but for the community as well. Lots of residents have been telling me they're worried about traffic and parking. They say the club if for the community so if it goes ahead they should open up the new car park to ease the significant parking problem.

'My feeling is that if we are going to lose some of this open space they need to show that the community benefit outweighs the loss of open space.'

Councillors will have to cast their vote with loss of open space and the lack of affordable housing in mind. Both of these can be overruled if the benefit to the community is considered high enough. The decision will be made at a planning committee on Wednesday, September 19.

In total the Moneyfields application has garnered 112 public comments in support and 30 objections.

Many felt it would have a positive impact on the local community.

Martin Merritt, of Castle Grove, said: 'Improving, expanding and modernising the existing facilities of this well-loved club will provide the community with fantastic possibilities for current and future generations.

'The provision of additional housing is added benefit, addressing the current shortage, and likely to improve the overall aesthetic of the immediate area. It seems to be a positive step forward for the club and local community.'

Homeowner Racheal Somerset, of Kirby Road, agreed. 'This looks like a well thought out planning application,' she said.

'It looks like it could be a superb community facility for the young and old to use together and bring a much needed community spirit back to Portsmouth. Also the mixture of houses and flats are good for larger families and first-time buyers and all with ample parking. This application needs to go through for the good of the city. Who knows what monstrosity will end up here if this is not granted.'

But one of the club's neighbours, Jason Turvey, of Highgate Road, said: 'I fail see how the developers/shareholders cannot see the negative impact on the community around them. Increase in traffic through built up one way systems. Clearly the housing sales will balance the cost of the development. Is there any need for more housing when we have so much uni housing which is supposed to free up rented accommodation for Portsmouth residents.

'There is already the noise pollution from when they play, it's like I'm playing central midfield for them. Also, I don't to walk out into my garden being overlooked by a massive building the current view is clear blue sky, a luxury in an already over congested city.'

Lauren Macpherson of Dover Road added: 'As a neighbour who is acutely aware of the parking and traffic issues, I am worried that the increase in vehicles associated with this development will add to an already difficult situation.

'Disputes already exist over the amount of cars in comparison to the availability of parking and an increase in cars from this sports centre may serve to displace cars further in the surrounding roads. The behaviour of drivers from the sports centre who currently park poorly and block access for residents to pass would also be a concern for me going forward.'