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Tonbridge Angels hope to install 3G pitch at Longmead in time for next season

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Tonbridge Angels hope to have a 3G pitch in place at Longmead for the start of next season.

The club have applied for planning permission to replace their grass pitch and are also in talks with Tonbridge & Malling Borough to extend the stadium lease.

Tonbridge Angels' Longmead Stadium
Tonbridge Angels' Longmead Stadium

Funding for the £600,000 project, which also includes new floodlights, is available and, all being well, work will be completed in time for the 2022/23 campaign.

The possibility of switching to 3G was mooted two years ago after Tonbridge were hit by a string of postponements.

At that stage it was seen as more of a long-term ambition, mainly due to the costs involved, but they appear to have overcome the financial hurdle.

“It just so happened the possibility of funding for the pitch, without the club having to find it themselves in full, has arisen,” said chairman Dave Netherstreet.

“We’ve had talks with various parties. I can’t say which parties at the moment but the indications were that the funding would be made available. We’ve just got to tie that up.

“Phil (Broad), one of our directors, is leading on that and we’ve got meetings early in the new year to get the green light. Once that’s in place, it’s all systems go.

“It’s quite interesting but it’s a very tight timescale.

“We’re hopeful of getting it done in the close season but there’s nothing definite about it yet.

“We just have to hope we don’t hit any problems, in which case we would have to speak to whichever league we’re in - hopefully it’s still the National League - regarding fixtures.

“I’m sure whichever league it is will work with us because an artificial pitch, however much people love them or hate them, it’s the only way clubs at our level can provide the additional income and retain our sustainability.

“Our biggest asset is the green bit in the middle, it’s got to be a utilisable asset, so to turn it into plastic, it’s the only way forward.”

Netherstreet says Tonbridge & Malling Council have been “supportive” and the club are looking at going out to tender, with three potential installers lined up.

Going down the 3G route offers “significant” benefits both to the football club and the local community, as it’s hoped the pitch would be in use for up to 50 hours each week.

Chairman Dave Netherstreet with manager Steve McKimm after Tonbridge reached the FA Cup first round last season Picture: Dave Couldridge
Chairman Dave Netherstreet with manager Steve McKimm after Tonbridge reached the FA Cup first round last season Picture: Dave Couldridge

The club say youth, disability, women’s, walking and veterans teams all stand to benefit from the pitch.

As a fan-owned club, proposals to pursue 3G were given the go-ahead at the last annual meeting.

Once everything is in place, the board will go back to supporters.

Netherstreet said: “Phil gave a talk on it at the last AGM and we got the go-ahead to progress it.

“Planning consent and going out to tender is a process that can’t be delayed, and getting the funding.

“Once the package is there, the owners will be fully consulted.

“Whether we’re having a special meeting, I doubt it because of the Covid situation, so it might have to be by letter or possibly a Zoom meeting.

“We’ll find a way but our owners will be fully consulted.

“I know some of them don’t like the thought of going plastic but logistically and monetarily it is the way forward for clubs at our level.”

Tonbridge say talks over a lease extension at Longmead - giving them 25 years - are at an advanced stage.

The extension is crucial for the project to progress.

Netherstreet said: “The council are not adverse to extending the lease but it will probably be just for a shorter period at the moment, it might be 10 years, or 15 years, which would give us a 25-year lease at Longmead.

“Hopefully, if we can develop the ground more, if finances become available and we were going to do more major works, we would be looking to extend the lease for a longer period.”

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