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Ashford Hockey Club plans spark anger over potential loss of field in Ball Lane

By Charlie Harman

Plans to build two new football pitches on land opposite Ashford Hockey Club will "signal the end of a peaceful country walk" if approved, opponents say.

Bosses at the club in Ball Lane, Kennington, want to build the pitches as part of an application for nine homes on their land.

If given the green light, the pitches would be built opposite the club entrance on a field on the other side of the lane while the homes would go on land fronting the A28.

The entrance to the field shows a well-worn footpath
The entrance to the field shows a well-worn footpath

But neighbour Mark Street has criticised the outline application, raising fears over the damage the new sport facilities could cause to the field.

He said: "It is only right that all residents understand the potentially negative impact that these proposals could have on one of the district's most popular and beautiful public footpaths.

"Given the noise likely to be generated by the football matches, this would essentially signal the end of the peaceful country walk for hundreds of families and dog walkers."

Where the proposed development could go
Where the proposed development could go

The hockey club has signed a new 30-year lease on about six acres of land opposite the site which is planned to be used to provide two new football pitches for Kennington Juniors Football Club (KJFC).

Club chairman Paul Dawson says the homes are needed to ensure the future financial viability of the club, which is suffering a general decline in membership.

But Boughton Aluph and Eastwell councillor Winston Michael (Ashford Independent) has criticised the pitches plan.

A mock-up of the proposed development
A mock-up of the proposed development

He said: "These proposals are simply reckless. The field is positioned about 400 metres from the Ashford Hockey Club clubroom, changing facilities and car park.

"In order to reach the field the junior players will have to walk through the busy Ashford Hockey Club car park, and through an entrance which is heavily used by vehicles both entering and exiting the site and which is the cause of traffic mayhem at the time of matches.

"There is no separate route for pedestrians.

The entrance to the hockey club
The entrance to the hockey club

"Once they exit the car park, the children will then need to walk about 20 metres along Ball Lane before crossing the road to access the public footpath leading to the field.

"Having young children crossing the road at such a busy time, when parents are dropping off their children, greatly increases the risk of a serious road traffic accident."

The hockey club's Roger Lightfoot, who has been a playing member for more than 40 years, responded to the criticism.

He said: "KJFC plan on using these pitches for the older age groups.

"The cars will be parking in the existing hockey club car park. Players will make their way on foot from the car park to the pitches, with appropriate supervision will be determined and managed by the football club.

"We estimate that about 650 children play hockey and football at Ball Lane every week and this planning application is fundamental to the provision of excellent sports facilities at Ball Lane going forward.

"There is an existing track from Ball Lane to the new football pitches. This is currently somewhat overgrown.

"This track and access gates to the field will be refurbished such that it is suitable for both emergency vehicles and ground maintenance vehicles to access the new pitches. Provision has been made for this in the lease and the project budget."

To view the outline planning application which has been submitted to Ashford Borough Council, visit www.ashford.gov.uk and search for the 18/01140/AS scheme.

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