‘Energy park is the only way we will survive,’ says sporting charity

Trustees of a sports and community base which is home to dozens of sporting teams have told how they are facing the devastating worry of an uncertain future without new facilities.

Eastside Community Sports Trust at Saltend is currently based on the site identified as part of plans for the £200 million Yorkshire Energy Park on the boundary of Preston South village and Hedon in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Eastside’s current facilities, which are used by more than 700 people per week during peak football and rugby seasons, are in a state of major disrepair and, due to significant annual running costs, it continues to struggle financially.

The function rooms are underused, parking is inadequate, large events force parking onto the pitches or nearby Staithes Road, and there are not enough changing rooms. Meanwhile, the showers are no longer fit for purpose and adult and youth teams are unable to play at the same time, the current facilities cannot accommodate disabled sports, which limits income, and the pitches are prone to flooding.

Yorkshire-based developer Sewell and Eco Parks Developments Ltd have partnered with London-based Chiltern, a national renewable energy, infrastructure and technology project facilitator, to develop the proposed Yorkshire Energy Park scheme, which is expected to be heard at East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s planning committee in the coming months.

The energy park will bring together businesses from across the globe, generating a multi-million pound investment boost for the Yorkshire and Humber economy and creating more than 1,000 jobs.

Rob Cawkwell, Project Director at Sewell Investments, said a brand new sporting zone, which will be created if the scheme is given the go-ahead, will open up a world of new opportunities for the Trust and everyone who uses the base.

He said: “Under the Yorkshire Energy Park plans, Eastside will have brand new fit-for-purpose, energy-efficient facilities, including a new clubhouse and gym, changing facilities and several new sports pitches for a range of sports, high quality lighting, pitch drainage, and improved parking.

“It is hoped with better provisions and a wider variety of sports facilities, membership will increase and Eastside will also be able to attract female and disabled sports teams and activities, as well as corporate and private events, which will ensure a financially sustainable future for the Trust.

“This will provide much more certainty and stability for everyone at Eastside and is part of a much wider plan to create significant inward investment and employment for the Yorkshire and Humber region.”

The Yorkshire Energy Park will include around one million sq ft of business accommodation, including manufacturing, storage and office space. The occupiers will benefit from best value and resilient energy solutions, as well as on-site electricity generation, energy storage facilities and resilient power and data connections.

An education and research campus, associated on-site accommodation, a data centre, facilities to support new and growing businesses, and sports facilities for the community are also part of the plans.

Household names including Vodafone, Legal & General, Almax and SSE Utilities have already voiced their support for the plans, with further announcements to follow in the coming weeks.

Hedon resident Andy Dickinson has been a Trustee at Eastside Community Sports Trust, which is a registered charity, for more than 10 years. He said he, Gordon and fellow Trustee Dave Gatti each spend 20 to 30 hours per week voluntarily cutting the grass, marking out pitches and maintaining the facilities.

Andy said: “Eastside is struggling week in, week out, and the building is in such a bad state of repair, so if we raise any money, it has to go straight back into that.

“I have lived in Hedon all my life and the Yorkshire Energy Park will create jobs, as well as fantastic new sports and community facilities. This is the only way we will survive.”

Gordon Wilson, Chair of Eastside Community Sports Trust has also been involved as a trustee for the past decade.

He said: “The current facilities are dilapidated, we can’t afford to update them and we’re really struggling financially.

“We are fully volunteer-led and none of us are getting any younger. We want great facilities for the teams and the community for years to come. With improved pitches, we can hopefully facilitate walking and wheelchair football, netball and other sports.

“If we have these new facilities, we can attract more people, which makes us more sustainable because we can gain extra income and teams will be able to train all year round.

“The other advantage is changing and shower facilities will all be improved. We’ll have more parking, making it more family and community-friendly, which is what we’re all about.

“The whole Yorkshire Energy Park project is positive for the entire community. If you’re creating jobs and opening up opportunities, it’s got to be positive. It’s putting the Humber on the map.”

Families who use the facilities have welcomed the plans and the potential for a brighter future at Eastside, which is home to three main clubs in Hedon Rangers AFC, Skirlaugh RLFC and BP RUFC.

Local resident Carl Jessop has two sons, Freddie and Isaac. Freddie plays for Skirlaugh under 8’s and Isaac plays for Skirlaugh Shrimps.

Carl said: “It would be a massive benefit for the teams and the community to have new facilities at Eastside. The Yorkshire Energy Park should seen as a positive. Beyond job creation, there are real opportunities here and a boost for the area, which will have a knock-on effect.”

Shaun Hill, who coaches the A team, under 7s and Shrimps at Skirlaugh, said: “New facilities would mean a lot to the kids because it’s getting tired at Eastside. New facilities would give them a chance to move forward.

“It would bring a lot more kids down here. At the moment, we are turning kids away because we haven’t got the facilities. In winter, we have to put money into other facilities to train because we haven’t got them ourselves. We have a waiting list too.”

The prosed Yorkshire Energy Park site is easily accessible from the M62, by train, close to the Port of Hull and Humberside International Airport.

Although the land for the proposed Yorkshire Energy Park site is in the East Riding of Yorkshire, it is owned by Hull City Council and the authority gave the go-ahead to the land terms for the former aerodrome site in March.