As you know, the committee and team of EB Lions has worked tirelessly over the last 3 years to enlist Parish Council support in Eaton Bray to obtain planning and then build our own all-weather 3G training pitch. This was an ambitious project, costing over £275,000 but with the support and skill of the Club, the project was viable and achievable.
For EB Lions to continue to thrive we must have training facilities that are fit for purpose. We have tried training on the local grass pitches with portable floodlights - aside of the burdens of storage, charging, moving and erecting them, they provide illumination to a mud bath for most of the winter that is not a suitable surface and which also leaves the grass pitches unfit for matches. Most teams now have to hire facilities in distant places such as Barnfield, Dunstable, Houghton Regis, Leighton Buzzard and Tring. These pitches are expensive to hire and are much in demand - particularly the prime midweek evening slots. It also presents a logistical nightmare for the coach, often having to leave work early and families arranging transport to deliver and collect.
EB Lions need for this facility in the village seems to be widely acknowledged. At no time have we heard anything but praise and appreciation for what EB Lions is achieving in the locality. Even the fiercest critics of siting the all weather pitch at The Rye or Holmans Field have acknowledged this.
We have worked very hard, very professionally and persistently over a long period of time to bring the opportunity of a modern, fit-for-purpose all-weather pitch to Eaton Bray. We have the support of Beds FA and believe that with our fundraising we could have secured sufficient grant aid so that this investment in the village can be achieved AT NO COST TO THE PARISH COUNCIL. We were also committed to run the facility in a responsible and reasonable way to minimise any inconvenience to neighbours and to always be good neighbours and it was self-financing on an operational basis.
We are therefore very saddened to report that the Parish Council, in the face of a small but vocal group of 'Nimbies' have wavered on supporting the entire project and have effectively 'kicked the project into the long grass'. As you will be aware planning permission was granted for the facility at the Rye. All that remained was to agree the terms of the lease with the Parish Council. Threats of legal action by the objectors gave the PC cold feet and has now culminated in them voting at the December parish council meeting not to proceed any further with the Rye project.
At the same meeting a vote was taken on the motion to consider our proposal to locate the pitch on Holman's Field. An amended motion was passed, but only with the casting vote of the Chair. It was clear that a motion to merely consider, prolong the project suggesting that we do a great deal of further work to justify the already proven feasibility of the project struggled to pass, there is effectively no reasonable prospect of securing their support, which we need to both submit a planning application and also have an operating agreement which would work.
All of these decisions were taken in the face of the public consultation, which the PC insisted upon, producing a majority in favour of BOTH sites. So having made us jump through hoops they then ignore the inconvenient results. Therefore, despite being granted planning permission at the Rye and winning a majority in the public consultation neither of the proposed projects will now go ahead.
We feel that there is no realistic prospect of finding a new site and starting the whole process again. With a heavy heart we have therefore decided to close the project and reluctantly accepted that this now will not happen. A minority of the Parish Council have been hugely supportive of what we were proposing and to them, especially Chair Cllr Gordon Johns and Cllr. Brian Piggott we are appreciative, however with the change of composition of the Parish Council the majority have been against this and without their clear support it is now dead as a viable project.
We have been hugely successful with fund raising and have a considerable separate, ring fenced fund, made possible by the superb efforts of coaches, parents and teams. We will discuss and decide how to best use this, but will do so with common sense and for the good of the Club. Your ideas would also be welcome. One example would be to seek/buy a few acres of agricultural land and convert to grass pitches, which we also desperately need.
The practical result of this decision for the club may mean a reduction in the number of teams due to a lack of playing surfaces, which means less children in our villages playing sport and the loss of a fantastic facility for future generations.
We are so sorry to have to report this devastating news but have to accept that if the unelected Village representatives don't want such a facility then that is 'what the people want'. We remain committed to the Club and its future and with your support will overcome this big blow and continue to make this the most successful and well run Club in the County.
We understand that many of you may have questions relating to this matter and Paul, Tim or Richard will be happy to answer them. Huge thanks again to all of our fantastic mangers, players, parents and sponsors who have supported us. We wish you all a happy 2014.
E B Lions AFC Astro team
This, the 23rd annual Puzzle that Gordon Gray has set, has a theme designed to help completion and will appeal to people who enjoy doing Crossword puzzles, such as in the Daily Telegraph (though it is not a Crossword puzzle). Puzzlers have plenty of time to find the answers and Puzzles should be returned, with donation, by 26 January 2014.
To download a copy of the Puzzle go to www.christmaspuzzle.co.uk. Alternatively puzzles can be collected from St Mary's Eaton Bray.
All the money you donate, except for the prize-money, will go to charity.