An ambitious plan to develop new state-of-the-art community sports facilities near Monkstown has been given the go-ahead by planners.
The proposed joint venture between Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and Crusaders Football Club could see the redevelopment of a large area of the council-owned Threemilewater Playing Fields.
While the north Belfast club will retain Seaview as its stadium, it is hoping to work with the council to develop a £2.2million training and playing facility on the existing shale hockey pitches at the Doagh Road site.
The plan, put forward by Crusaders Sport and Social Development Trust, would include 3G pitches of various sizes, a new changing pavilion, a viewing stand, floodlights and fencing.
At their monthly meeting on Monday, August 17, members of the council’s Planning Committee voted to approve the project planning application - a decision welcomed by Crusaders as “a major move forward for the scheme.”
Mark Langhammer, the club’s Director for Stadium and Facilities, commented: “The decision by the council to approve planning permission is a major move forward for the proposed Threemilewater scheme. Nonetheless, the facility will take time to become a reality.
“The next steps are to develop our outline business case, to undertake a community consultation in the area and to submit appropriate funding applications. At each stage we will work closely with the council.”
He continued: “Within the community consultation, we would like to hear from community based sports clubs, local residents’ groups, schools and youth organisations including Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade companies, Scouts, Guides and others. The consultation will take place between late September and November and we hope to publish details shortly.”
If all goes according to plan, the club hopes that the new facility will be open within the next few years.
Mr Langhammer added: “The need to upgrade Threemilewater was identified within the council’s own facilities audit and we see our contribution as developing a facility for organised clubs and groups rather than for pay-per-play individuals.
“The aim is to complement rather than to compete with existing facilities.
“Crusaders will contribute matched funding to the capital costs, but public or grant funding will be required too.
“It should go without saying that these are austere times, so raising the capital will require significant effort and patience.
“The council’s decision places us on the foothills of developing the concept, which may take three to four years to realise.”
While the local authority’s Planning Committee approved the club’s application, the final project, complete with details of costs, usage and other key matters, will still have to come before councillors at a later date for further consideration.