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Ashford Hockey Club reveals new homes and pitches plan in Kennington

Ashford Hockey Club says it is committed to its home in Kennington "for decades to come" - despite resubmitting plans to build nine homes on its land.

The club lodged plans for the four-bed detached properties on land fronting Canterbury Road in 2016, but put the plans on hold following concerns over the loss of a football pitch.

It has now submitted a revised outline application, which also includes two new football pitches on land opposite the club entrance in Ball Lane.

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

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.

He said: "We wish to free the club from the burden of interest and loan repayments and secure the financial viability of the club for decades to come.

"The sale of a small proportion of our land for houses would allow the club to resurface the current pitch without further borrowing.

Ashford Hockey Club
Ashford Hockey Club

"This would immediately eliminate the mortgage and ongoing repayment and interest charges and turn an annual loss into a surplus."

Bosses say they are not in discussions with Quinn Estates about moving the club to the proposed 750-home Conningbrook Park development off Willesborough Road, dubbed Large Burton.

Developer Mark Quinn is planning scores of homes on the land, which also includes space for sports pitches.

Paul Dawson
Paul Dawson

But the hockey club's Roger Lightfoot, who has been a playing member AHC for more than 40 years, said: "We are aware that there may be some worries locally that this application might be the start of something bigger and furthermore that it is possibly associated with Conningbrook Park.

"This is certainly not the case.

"The club is very much committed to playing hockey at Ball Lane for decades to come and this proposal offers both the hockey and junior football clubs an exciting and secure future."

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).

The planned development
The planned development

Mr Dawson added: "We are committed to supporting KJFC going forward.

"Our earlier plan proposed in late 2016 would have resulted in the loss of one of the football pitches - just less than two acres - used by KJFC and this was the subject of some concern at the time.

"Our current plan addresses this by replacing the pitch that will be lost to the houses with two new pitches to be constructed to Football Association standards on about six acres of land at Ball Lane for which we have signed a 30-year lease.

"The construction of these pitches will be paid for by the hockey club using some of the proceeds from the houses.

"Ashford Hockey Club is without question one of the most important and frequented sports venues in the town but our facilities are deteriorating rapidly.

"We are struggling to keep up with the costs of resurfacing the astroturf pitch and other facilities.

"For example, our astroturf hockey pitch is wearing out and will be unplayable within one to two years. A new surface costs about £220,000, while new pitches cost between £500,000 and £800,000."

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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