THE MANOR Sports Ground could be zoned off to allow shared access for school children and residents, following a council meeting on Thursday.
Worthing Borough Council refused to hand over control of the public ground to Bohunt, the sponsor of the town’s new academy, being built on the other side of Broadwater Road.
A new licence will now be set up with the council keeping control, rather than disposing of the ground entirely.
Addressing the committee, Gaisford councillor Kevin Jenkins called for a shared access solution, with the council retaining control.
He said: “I am sure when previous generations created this area the intention was to see sports played on the Manor Sports Ground.
“Predominantly, we have cricket for a few months of the year and football at weekends.
“For a large part of the year the ground sits idle of sporting activity with the greatest activity understandably local residents walking their dogs, throwing a ball or a frisbee - hardly the vibrant hub of sporting endeavour that was envisaged.”
The meeting heard from both sides of the debate, who generally supported the school’s use of the ground but disagreed as to how it should be done.
A report to councillors indicated 53 per cent of those surveyed objected to Bohunt having exclusive access but 75 per cent agreed shared use was a possibility.
The report, by head of economic growth James Appleton, recommended disposal of the ground, leasing it to Bohunt and others, for exclusive use during the school day. But the committee objected to this, opting instead to maintain control of the ground.
Worthing Borough Council leader Dan Humphreys said: “I struggle to see that a conclusive compelling case has been made for absolute exclusive use, five days a week (by the school).”
Mr Humphreys added a compromise could be reached by zoning parts of the ground off for public use, during the school day.
Speaking after the meeting, Keith Gurney, on behalf of the Manor Action Group, said: “Whilst the devil will be in the detail, it’s great news that the council have taken the community’s views into account and decided not to grant blanket exclusive use to Bohunt.”
On the other side of the debate, a Friends of Bohunt School spokesman added: “Although disappointed and frustrated a clear decision has not been made, as prospective parents our main concern has always been the health and safety of the children to receive a first rate education.
“If this can be achieved through fencing and zoning then this will be a good decision.”
Bohunt director of learning and strategy Phil Avery said it was ‘difficult to comment’ at this stage but suggesting zoning and a refocusing of the ground on sport could ‘work well’.
Mr Jenkins was happy with the compromise, which he hoped would reassure parents. He added potential fences would not have to be too tall, should they be used.
The precise details of the new licence will now be negotiated with all parties.
n Building work started on the new school last Tuesday.
A ground breaking ceremony was held on the site, with new head teacher Adam Whitehead declaring the academy would be ‘fantastic’.