Markethill community to benefit from 'Swift' redevelopment of Ashgrove playing field
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The community of Markethill could be in for a big win as plans are to be submitted this week which would allow for 'huge' redevelopment of the Ashgrove playing fields.
Plans, which are being lodged by Markethill Swifts Football Club, could see the revamp of the existing grass pitch, the creation of a new community-centered grass pitch, the rebuilding of a boundary fence and construction of a 'community hub' building.
The planning for overall works will be submitted in two to three phases with phase one entering submission this week.
Speaking to Armagh I, Club Secretary Stephen Hartley,said: "This is a huge vision at this point but we really want to be able to give something back to the community. The park was taken away from this area about 18 months ago and moved to the school and since then there has been a bit of an increase in anti-social behaviour in the Ashgrove area. Whilst we have been working towards this project for about 3 years, we just feel like the timing is right."
The Ashgrove project will provide a main grass pitch which will be secured and a second 'community training' pitch which will remain open at all times.
"We want to redevelop the area into a safe and secure space for the youth in the area to come and play football. The community pitch will be open at all times so they can come and go at their leisure. The community hub would also be open to everybody; any community groups or members of the public who wish to use it should be able to do so" said Stephen.
Whilst the club enjoy state-of-the-art home grounds just outside Markethill at Kilcluney, they can see the benefit in having an additional improved space in the centre of the town.
"It's hopefully going to be for the overall betterment of the local area" said Stephen. "The club is keen to give part of the site back to the local community. We have got so many players who have come from the local area and played on this space in summers or maybe that's where they learnt to play football. The space has always been there for the residents to enjoy but there is no doubt it needs improvement."
The club signed off on a 21 year lease on the lands with ABC Council in November and since then have been working on finalising their plans.
The main avenue of funding currently being pursued by the club is the Community Ownership Fund which supports communities across the UK to take ownership of treasured local assets whose future may otherwise be in doubt.
For the last four to five years the space has been shared by Markethill Swifts FC and the Ambassadors FC seeing up to 18 matches played weekly.
Three years ago, when the club presented their vision to local councillors it became apparent that there was a definite need for development of the area.
Stephen commented: "It's only then when you put it on paper that you realise the size of the club. We had around 250 people playing regularly and around 16 to 17 teams at that time. We are probably one of the biggest sporting organisations within maybe a five or six mile radius. "
The improvements would allow for an increase in weekly matches, provide an additional space for training and the 'community hub', complete with a main function room, changing areas and - potentially - a stand for spectators, would greatly enhance the overall player and visitor experience.
Markethill Swifts FC will be running a public consultation workshop over the coming months and invite the public to attend to provide feedback on the project.
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