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Herne Bay hope to install 3G pitch at Winch's Field in time for next season

Herne Bay hope to have a 3G pitch in place at Winch’s Field for the start of next season.

The Isthmian South East club have applied for planning permission to replace their grass surface as part of what Herne Bay are describing as "the biggest development and transformation of the club's facilities in recent times".

Herne Bay in action against rivals Whitstable at Winch's Field this season. Picture: Les Biggs
Herne Bay in action against rivals Whitstable at Winch's Field this season. Picture: Les Biggs

Bay chairman Stuart Fitchie revealed the news in a club statement on Wednesday following discussions with Canterbury City Council.

He said the club have appointed a project manager to oversee the works and estimated the works would cost £600,000.

“While my heart is entirely (with) grass and I don’t have particularly fond memories of playing on 3G, the knowledge I have gained in the last few months has educated me on how far 3Gs have come since I was playing,” Fitchie explained.

“Nowadays, we find ourselves with high-spec carpets with very similar characteristics to grass but with the durability of an artificial surface.

“The proof will be in the pudding when it is down but we have chosen a top-end product that will enable a ‘natural’ feel and meet FIFA Quality ‘PRO’ standards.

“Many clubs either already have a 3G surface or are planning on replacing their grass pitch with a 3G playing surface. This has transformed clubs, their business models and opportunities directly and indirectly exponentially.”

Indeed, Bay’s announcement comes after National League South Tonbridge were given the green light to put down a 3G pitch in time for their 2022/23 campaign last week by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council.

Other football clubs in Kent to have artificial pitches include Ramsgate, Margate, Maidstone, Ashford, Sheppey and Chatham.

Fitchie, who joined the club in 2019, continued: “This application extends to new perimeter fencing, (a) tarmac walkway spectator side and includes the levelling of the pitch.

“We are expecting a smooth planning process and have appointed a very experienced project manager with more than 15 years of experience in this area.

Herne Bay chairman Stuart Fitchie
Herne Bay chairman Stuart Fitchie

“Our intention is that the works will be completed at the close of this season in time for (the) 22/23 season.

“As you would expect, when the news was delivered internally, it was greeted with a reaction of pure delight and excitement.

“For me, having ‘One Home’ for all associated with the club and having a facility that can be used by our partners and other Herne Bay community clubs gives me immense wholesomeness.

“As I have grown into my role, I am understanding more the scale of the role the club has as a stakeholder in the town, but also myself as the steer and current senior custodian. Saying I was involved in this transformation is something I am honoured to be a part of - and so can you.

“As part of our fundraising plans, we intend on running a debt raise, meaning individuals or companies can invest in the project and receive an attractive annual rate of interest in return. I have a presentation prepared for any interested parties and would be happy to run it through.

“I am pleased to say so far what looks to be a project totalling approximately £600k - without this being public knowledge - I have already had extremely positive feedback and significant commitments of investment. Enough commitment to confirm already that this project will be going ahead.

“I would like to open this out to anyone interested – at this time and due to the intended structure, we are seeking minimum commitments of £50k per investor.

“As I said above, I am happy to arrange to meet with any interested parties.”

Fitchie added the club would also work on a similar offer for anyone else interested in supporting the project who doesn’t have that sort of money.

Sixth-placed Bay are just a point outside the play-offs and vying for promotion to Isthmian Premier.

They host Chichester this Saturday.

The club’s planning application can be found here.

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