APPLICATION FOR ADDITIONAL SPORTING SPACE IN MARLBOROUGH
Marlborough Rugby and Youth Football Clubs are both not-for-profit, volunteer run, funded by sponsorship and subscriptions, making a net financial contribution to MTC. The Clubs’ purpose is to promote sporting participation in the local community and wish to expand offering to include ladies’ rugby, girls’ football, touch rugby & walking rugby so need to act now. There are over 8001 young players currently registered.
Sport is widely recognised as critical to mental and physical health2,3,4,5 but there is a desperate shortage of playing areas in Marlborough6 with MYFC having to train at Burbage, Great Bedwyn, Pewsey & Hungerford. Travelling long distances reduces participation due to family commitments, cost and access to transport. MRFC & MYFC are reliant on goodwill of the College (as are Marlborough Hockey and Athletics clubs).
Smaller Wiltshire towns have much better access to playing areas e.g. Highworth (13 pitches), Malmesbury (22) and Wroughton (14), whereas Marlborough has 4 football and 2 rugby pitches (and 4 pitches at St Johns’ which have too much wear and tear to use). Bradford upon Avon, although slightly bigger, has 17.
As the 2 clubs look for more space so the membership can play and train. All the areas within the town have been explored or are already used including the school, the college, the Rec so a plan has been provided by the clubs showing two possible locations on the Common.
• That the Grounds Manager’s proposed location in line with existing pitches and adjacent to Frees Avenue was rough ground and would incur a cost of around £35,000 to prepare it for level playing and that cost was MRFC’s main driver for the proposed location in the middle of The Common
• The area would be used as a training area for youth rather than senior players – between MRFC and MYFC there were approximately 800 children looking to play sport at weekends and use the new pitch
• Preparation of the site, at MRFC’s cost, would include the addition of around 100mm/4” of topsoil which would need levelling and seeding (no excavation)
• MRFC did not have permanent use of Marlborough College rugby pitches
• The area would still be green grass and people could still walk on it – the area preferred by MRFC was not bisected by any mown paths and had ragwort present
• MRFC could consider improving biodiversity by planting a nectar mix nearby
• That the Common was not a conservation area
• That there was no proposal to add fencing or posts
• Around 20% of the population was under 20 and the town was poorly served for playing space for youth football and rugby players
• Proposed use of the pitch was for Saturday and Sunday mornings only (although people played later in the day than usual under COVID-19 restrictions but once these eased the club would revert to mornings only)
• Senior players used existing pitches at other times of the day/week
• Attic space at the clubhouse was being finalised to create space for more toilets, shower and changing room
• Most young players arrived dressed to play and went home to shower
• The car park adjacent to the clubhouse was available to the whole community
FAQs - REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL SPORTING SPACE IN MARLBOROUGH
Who are Marlborough Rugby Club and Marlborough Youth Football Clubs?
Both clubs are not-for-profit, volunteer run, funded by sponsorship and subscriptions, making a net financial contribution to Marlborough Town Council (MTC). The Clubs’ purpose is to promote sporting participation in the local community and wish to expand offering to include ladies’ rugby, girls’ football, touch rugby & walking rugby so need to act now.
How many youngsters do the clubs currently coach?
The rugby club currently has around 370 young players (under 18 years old) players currently registered with England Rugby Football Union (RFU); the Youth Football Club has around 430 players on their books.
Why are the two clubs requesting additional outdoor playing area?
Sport is widely recognised as critical to mental and physical health but there is a desperate shortage of playing areas in Marlborough with MYFC having to train at Burbage, Great Bedwyn, Pewsey & Hungerford. Travelling long distances reduces participation due to family commitments, cost and access to transport. To meet the current demand, MRFC & MYFC are reliant on goodwill of the College (as are Marlborough Hockey and Athletics clubs).
How does Marlborough’s sporting provision compare with neighbouring towns?
Smaller Wiltshire towns have much better access to playing areas e.g. Highworth (13 pitches), Malmesbury (22) and Wroughton (14), whereas Marlborough has 4 football and 2 rugby pitches (and 4 pitches at St Johns’ which have too much wear and tear to use). Bradford-upon-Avon, although slightly bigger, has 17 pitches.
What are the clubs asking for?
To meet the current and future expected demand, the clubs have identified an area of around one hectare between the current rugby pitches and the Golf Club.
What do the clubs intend to do with this area if permission is granted?
The clubs will lay ~100mm of topsoil on top of the existing ground which will then be levelled & seeded.
Who would be paying for this?
We are not expecting any funding from MTC. The Clubs would seek to raise the ~£30,000 via grants, sponsorship, crowd funding etc.
What are the timescales?
If a decision to go ahead is given before the Spring, then the area could be available for training in September 2022. Any delay in the decision will push this back to September 2023.
Won’t there be posts etc?
Nothing temporary/permanent will be left on or around area. The Youth Football Club may use portable “Samba” goals which will be stored when not in use at the rugby club.
How is the Common currently used?
Marlborough Common consists of around 45 Hectares of which the Golf Club leases ~25 Hectares and the Rugby Club ~3 Hectares.
Aren’t there other areas of land in the Marlborough area that could be used?
Work on the Marlborough Area Neighbourhood Plan (MANP) started in the Summer of 2015. This includes a section on “Improvement of local sports facilities”. We are not aware of any proposals in the MANP for additional green playing areas. The rugby club also carried out a thorough review of all available flat land within 3 miles of Marlborough town centre and could not find anything suitable. This included discussion with both Marlborough’s football and cricket clubs regarding possible ground sharing.
Don’t the local authorities have an obligation to provide adequate sporting facilities for the town?
There is no statutory obligation for MTC or Wiltshire County Council to provide such facilities.
Why not use Marlborough College’s facilities?
Although the College have provided occasional access to their facilities, neither Clubs has been able to secure regular access. Transition Marlborough recently approached the College whose Director of Sport formally responded in December 2020 with “the College are not able to offer further use of their rugby pitch facility”.
Hasn’t Marlborough Golf Club got land that it could make available?
Despite having support from the Golf Club for our proposals, the General Manager has confirmed that, regretfully, they have no spare land available.
Why don’t the clubs adopt the MTC preferred option parallel to Free’s Avenue?
We estimate that the cost of providing a training area on this area would be ~£20k more expensive due to the terrain and slope. In addition, this area would be outside of the 40mph zone on Free’s Avenue. The Clubs have no objection to MTC developing this area provided that the safety and cost issues can be resolved.
Isn’t the shortage of training space just a temporary Covid related problem?
There has been a chronic shortage of training space in Marlborough for some years, partly because of both Clubs’ success in attracting young players. Covid has just exacerbated the problem.
Will this take away yet another part of the Common for use by the wider public?
The current pitches are open for all to use throughout the year to walk dogs, fly kites, kick around a ball apart from around 250 hours per year when training or matches are taking place. The Rugby Club is requesting use of an additional one hectare for around 140 hours/year; the Youth Football Club for around 110 hours/year. (Sat 09:00-12:00; Sun 09:00-13:00 during September to May). This total request is just over 5% of annual daylight hours. The training area will NOT be used by the Clubs during the Summer months of May, June and July and August.
Do the relatively small number of players have requesting a disproportionate right of access in comparison to the town’s 8,400 population?
We estimate that over 1,500 minis, juniors, youths, coaches and parents are currently involved plus senior players and many more who have played for, volunteered at or had a child at the clubs over the years.
Are there objections from the other sports clubs that use the Common?
There are no objections from the Golf Club, Tennis Club or Parkrun.
What are the objections of the Marlborough Model Flying Club?
The 24 members of the Model Flying Club were until the Summer of 2019 using another site in addition to the Common. We have offered to restrict our use of the new training area to just Saturday mornings (until noon) and Sunday mornings (until 1pm) from September to May. The Rugby and Youth Football Clubs are not active during the Summer months, so no issues arise.
Will the work risk digging up buried asbestos from previous WWII buildings?
There will be no excavation of the ground. ~100mm of topsoil is to be laid on top of the existing ground, then levelled & seeded.
How will this affect parking?
For organised sessions there is plenty of free parking available on Common which the Clubs open when training or playing. Parking at the Cemetery is carefully policed by both Clubs. We are confident that non-Cemetery parkers are NOT associated with the Rugby or Youth Football Clubs.
Will there be traffic congestion on Free’s Avenue?
Traffic problems are caused by cars parked on Free’s Avenue. These tend not to be related to the sports activities as there is plenty of free parking on the Common. The rugby club recognised this issue some time ago and applied to MTC for 300m of double yellow lines along Frees Avenue on 14 Jan 2019. However, only a 20m section was subsequently approved by Wiltshire Council.
Won’t the tended area destroy the natural habitat?
The proposed area identified is currently infested with ragwort, an “injurious weed” under the terms of the Weeds Act 1959, of which “all parts of this plant are poisonous, and even small doses can be fatal to cats and dogs”. We could aim to potentially improve biodiversity on Common via sown pollen & nectar flower mixes in other areas.
1 This (Covid-19) season MRFC has 331 boys/girls at U6 to Colts registered with England RFU + 50 "rugby tots" on a Sunday morning = 381. Marlborough Youth Football Club has 430 players in 28 youth teams.
6 Rugby club participated in MANP A&OS working group and also conducted own survey of land opportunities within 3 miles of Marlborough without finding available solution.
7 MTC Grounds’ Manager Report of 12 November 2020 (Item 6 for A&OS Meeting of 16.11.20)
8 Ragwort (senecio jacobaea) is an “injurious weed” under the terms of the Weeds Act 1959;