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09 Dec 2021

Upgrade and lease arrangement at County Derry playing fields approved

Councillors took the decision at a Committee meeting last week.

Upgrade and lease arrangement at County Derry playing fields approved

Cahore Playing Fields are home to Draperstown Celtic FC.

A proposal to upgrade a set of playing fields in County Derry and establish a leasing arragement has taken a step closer after it was approved at committee level.

Cahore Playing Fields in Draperstown is currently home to Draperstown Celtic Football Club, who requested that Mid Ulster District Council upgrade the facilities back in February 2021.

The proposal was approved at last week's Development Committee, with plans to move forward with a sub-leasing arrangement also given the go-ahead.

Local company Heron Bros currently lease the land directly to the Council, with the lease varied in 2014 to a term of 50 years, backdated to April 1 1994.

After public expressions of interest were sought in September, submissions for the two soccer pitches and one GAA pitch were received from Draperstown Celtic FC and St Colm's GAC Ballinascreen.

A site map of the location in Draperstown showing the pitches.

Both clubs have indicated acceptance of LPS rent valuations for the site, with the soccer pitches to be rented at £1,600 per year and the GAA pitch at £1,000 per year.

Council will retain control of the site's pavilion under the arrangement due to the muli-sport nature of the facility, with clubs paying £500 each in a keyholding arrangement.

An initial survey carried out by a local contractor has indicated a cost of around £55,000 to upgrade the facilities, with the GAA pitch and one soccer pitch experiencing 'poor' drainage.

The report indicated the upgrade would focus on the GAA pitch, with the security provided by the lease allowing Draperstown Celtic to apply for funding to develop a 3G pitch in place of one soccer pitch.

Councillor for the area, Catherine Elattar, said improvements at the site were overdue.

“This seems to be a sensible approach. Money does need to be spent bringing the pitches up to standard,” said the Sinn Féin representative.

“The leasing arrangement will allow the cost of this to be recouped in a relatively short period by Council.

“It also allows local clubs to take over responsibility for the pitches, which will benefit the local community, as these clubs do an awful lot of important work in the area.

Catherine Elattar spoke in favour of approval.

Cllr Water Cuddy said he would not be voting against the proposal, but told the Committee it did seem 'very complicated'.

“I've just can't understand why we don't step out and let the two clubs talk to the landowner,” he said.

“Any public organisation needs to have policies in place and follow those through, because if we start stepping outside policies, it gets very difficult.

“We need to keep this as tidy as possible. Can we not just sign this over to the clubs without the spend so they can draw down the funding themselves?

“They're getting £50,000 of grant aid through the back door almost. We need to keep things clear and transparent.

“It's great to see it being delivered, and I'm not against the project, but it just seems so complicated.”

Cllr Cuddy's UUP colleague, Cllr Trevor Wilson raised questions over how quickly the process had been undertaken.

“My concern is that this was brought before us in February and we now have a report sitting [proposing] to go ahead with this,” he said.

“I brought a report last year on another sporting facility and it has never reached this table. It makes you wonder. I'll just leave it at that.”

Draperstown Celtic will join St Colm's GAC Ballinascreen at the facility.

Cllr Elattar said she was glad to hear Cllr Cuddy would not vote against the proposal.

“These pitches in Cahore are not fit for purpose. If you come up to see them, you could be up to your knees in water,” she said.

“The soccer team has to travel sometimes to Dungiven to play matches because they can't actually use the pitches.

“The money needs to be spent whether or not the lease goes ahead. The lease gives the clubs ownership and lets them apply for outside funding that will add to what these pitches offer.”

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