My name is Steve Whitehead and I am Chairman of Mill Lane United FC who have leased and maintained Broadgates playing fields from ERYC since 1994. The playing field is privately leased from ERYC and public access has been allowed solely at the discretion of the Club since we took the lease on. We are responsible for the maintenance of the whole facility including securing boundaries, green space and all of the trees that maker the area so attractive.
In recent times we have been beset with complaints from local Broadgate residents who do not understand the terms and liabilities within our lease, or appreciate the impact of Covid on our management of the area. This has led to a local social media onslaught and significant, costly property vandalism at the ground. Vandalism has been reported to the Police and is now part of a local investigation.
I have attached an open letter that explains our perspective on the issues.
Mill Lane United (‘the Club’) has been part of the local football community since the Hull Leagues were founded in 1948 and have leased Broadgates Playing Fields continuously since 1994 (27 years). The lease provides exclusive use of the area for the Club to play football with no provision for public access i.e. the land is a private facility in terms of the lease. The Club is community based (we have 25+ children from Walkington families who play for us) and, acting as a good neighbour, have allowed discretionary community access to the field over this time. To allow public access, our Public Liability Insurance requires that the area is demarcated at the boundary and that signs are displayed to indicate that the public enters at their own risk. The lease requires the Club to:
- Maintain the boundary – This includes fencing the area adjacent to the remote car park to deter vandalism to the facility especially at night time. Protection of the remote corner also helps secure the estate in restricting easy access for would-be burglars and reduces the potential for traveller access.
- Maintain the trees and hedge line – all of the trees on Broadgates have Tree Protection Orders (TPO) on them. This requires the Club to work with the ERYC arborist to determine and agree the scope of maintenance works and then, at the Clubs cost, hire a certified tree surgeon to carry out the work. The completed work is inspected by ERYC; unauthorised work risks a fine of £5000! Recent tree work has cost the Club in the order of £1500 which was all raised from player subscriptions and other fund raising.
- Maintain the playing surface and surrounding areas – for this we have to purchase and maintain our own equipment which has required significant Club investment. Costs are supported from team subscriptions and fund-raising events with no contributions from ERYC, Walkington Council or from non- Club based users. The majority of the maintenance is carried out by volunteers to make the lease affordable. Contracted out, the cost of this maintenance work would be in the order of £3000pa (plus additional costs for tree maintenance) which ERYC would not be prepared to take on.
Club teams also pay to use Walkington Playing Fields for which we have also provided equipment as part of our community commitment.
Walkington residents benefit from this ‘unseen’ investment the Club makes to the community for which we get no public recognition or contribution.
In recent times we have been beset with complaints from people at Broadgates who do not appear to understand the terms and liabilities within our lease. This has led to a social media onslaught and significant, costly property vandalism at the ground. Vandalism has been reported to the Police and is now part of a local investigation
Responses to some of those issues raised in the resident social media campaign are:
- Restriction of Access at the Car Park Entrance
There have been a number of complaints and associated vandalism related to the closing of public access to and from the main road at the NE car park that has been used as a shortcut public access point in the past. Recent vandalism has included super gluing gate locks and cutting of new access points in response to a boundary repair – we believe that these misdemeanours were not childish pranks but part of a sustained vendetta against the Club. The Club have a number of issues with the use of the shortcut:
- We are required to maintain the boundary to minimise opportunist vandals accessing via the car park. This also acts as a deterrent to antisocial behaviour in the area adjacent to the car park and as a deterrent to unofficial Traveller access. Enclosure of the remote corner also helps secure the estate in restricting covert access for would-be burglars.
A resident indicated that they used the access to deposit bags of dog faeces into the black waste bin in the car park but this bin is for general waste NOT dog faeces as this should be deposited in a designated red bin. A better location for a ‘doggie waste bags’ red bin would be on the metalled path near White Lodge safety gate. This can be discussed with your local council
- A metalled path linking the estate with the main B1230 Beverley / Walkington Road was installed with a safety gate adjacent to White Lodge Cottage after public campaign – this is the child safe access route provided by the local authority. In taking the shortcut, there is no protection from traffic on the busy road for children running out and is an accident waiting to happen. To put things into perspective, the difference in transit time between the official route and shortcut across the football ground is less than 2 minutes.
- Walking diagonally across the field to the ‘shortcut’ entrance damages the playing surface by forming a channel across the pitches. This leads to unpredictable movement of the football which takes an element of skill out of the game and is frustrating for the players.
- Megson Way Fence line (southern boundary adjacent to houses)
A rail from the playing field southern boundary fence adjacent to the houses has been removed by persons unknown presumably for ease of access from the housing estate. This is an important boundary fence that can be seen from the car park and provides an enclosure to deter unwanted visitors. The land is classed as private therefore the responsibility for moving on unauthorised campers would be with the Club and not the Police. The costs to the Club to take such an action would be prohibitive and could take weeks to enact therefore it makes sense for the community to ensure the boundary is maintained.
- Dog Walking
The Club give discretionary community access to the playing field but some locals take advantage of this benefit by not picking up after their dogs or throwing ‘doggy bags’ into the hedgerows and drain. Dog faeces can contain bacteria and parasites that are easily transmitted between animals and people and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss, anorexia, anaemia and lethargy. Besides direct hand to mouth transmission and direct skin contact with larvae, bacteria and parasites they are also disseminated from a pile of faecal matter on lawn mower blades during grass cutting, the bottoms of shoes, etc. and after rainfall to areas of water run-off. Therefore, it is your duty of care to protect all users of the facility especially young players and your own children by to ensuring that pets are managed properly by keeping them on a lead at all times and picking up after them. (See appendix for details)
- Ground Issues
- Goal Post Storage Location – complaints have been made about the fact that we store goal posts on a designated football field leased exclusively by the Club. The goals have been stored in visible areas during Covid restrictions for their security. They are expensive, long delivery items and we thought (wrongly) that they would be more secure in that location during lockdown. We have moved them to a new location to reduce perceived offence.
- Dugout Drainage pit – The hole was required to drain an area near the dugouts due to localised flooding earlier in the year. This has now been plated to minimise the potential for accidents.
- Waste between the changing room and container – there has been a delay in removing this material due to Covid restrictions. We have procured a skip so that this can be removed.
Mill Lane United are a voluntary organisation that raises its own funds to maintain Broadgates playing field and also actively supports Walkington Playing Field Association; both of these facilities are enjoyed by the greater Walkington communities at no additional cost residents. As a club, we feel that it is time that you ‘cut us some slack’ and show some appreciation for our positive contribution to your community not just in terms of safe facilities provision but also our youth support work through football coaching that we provide which, as you know, is an important part of young people’s health, fitness and wellbeing. Finally, it costs the ERYC nothing to be the Landlord of Broadgates as we as a Club cover all of the costs, however, if for some reason that was to change then the ERYC may need to reconsider the lands planning status for future use.
Chairman, Mill Lane United