New lease is negotiated to save sport in Petworth

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Negotiations between Petworth Town Council and the National Trust (NT) are going ahead in a bid to save sport in the town.

Town councillors have stepped in to take over the running of the Petworth Park sports ground from the Joint Sports Association after the association’s bid to renew its lease faltered.

Chairman Chris Kemp told a full meeting of the council on Thursday the only option the NT was prepared to consider was to enter into a lease with the town council.

He said he wanted to set up a group to finalise the lease, but a management committee including councillors and representatives the sports association would be created to manage the sports ground.

Juliet Fynes asked if the new arrangement meant the town council would ‘take over’ the sports association and decide which sports groups could use the sports ground. David Burden added: “We have got to get people to understand clearly what is involved here and that nobody is being excluded.”

Mr Kemp said: “Someone has got to be responsible for the finances of the sports ground” adding “I have no intention of excluding anyone, but we have to set off in the right way.”

The meeting heard sport had dwindled with only two adult football teams and no juniors. The stoolball team had returned to Tillington and the old cricket club disappeared. But the cricket club had been reborn with a popular youth project masterminded by Alex Rees.

Mr Kemp warned: “One of the reasons the NT agreed to talk to the town council is as long as we promote sport in this community.”

Michael Peet said: “The NT wouldn’t grant a lease to the sports association, we are the only entity they will deal with and if we don’t agree to do it, there won’t be a sports ground. The joint sports association won’t exist because it will have to conform to our rules.” He said there was also an opportunity to increase fund raising.

“The youth cricket made more money in one quiz night than all the football club made in 12 months. The football club did not think it could raise more than £800 a year.”

He told councillors: “Really they might be better off if they were not involved if the current outcome is testimony to their success.”

Initially, he said, the lease would be for five years, but a longer lease of 20 years could be negotiated at a later date.

“There is money out there to improve the sports ground, but to get it we have to have a longer lease.”

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