UPDATED: Council rejects Manor Sports Ground disposal in favour of shared access

The Manor Action Group wants to maintain public access to the Manor Sports Ground
The Manor Action Group wants to maintain public access to the Manor Sports Ground

THE MANOR Sports Ground could be ‘zoned off’ to allow shared access for school children and residents, following a council meeting last night.

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.

The precise details will now be negotiated with all parties.

Leader Daniel 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).

“I am sure that we can reach some compromise, some way of zoning-off areas of that ground to allow use in some parts of it, possibly even the majority of it, at hours during the school day and at the weekend for clubs, to allow sports activity to take place, while on others parts, possibly segregated by some sort of fencing – I don’t know, we will have to go down that route and work that out – where people can go to fly their kites, throw their frisbees and walk their dogs.”

The meeting heard from both sides, who generally supported the school’s use of the ground but disagreed as to how it should be done.

Gaisford councillor Kevin Jenkins welcomed Bohunt but urged the Joint Strategic Committee, which was tasked with making the decision, not to dispose of the ground.

He called for a booking management system, run by the council, to enable schools such as Bohunt and Whytemead, to share the ground.

Philip Avery, Bohunt Education Trust director of learning and strategy, attended the meeting alongside chief executive Neil Strowger.

Mr Avery said it was ‘difficult to comment’ until more details were known.

In a statement, he said: “Last night’s meeting was very useful but at this stage it is very difficult to comment on the outcome until we know more details. It could well be that a refocusing of the Manor Sports Ground on sport, making it safe for sport by children of all ages and zoning works well.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Worthing Cricket Club, Worthing FC, Whytemead school and the councils, as well as the public, to firm up plans that provide the best possible outcome for all parties.”

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.”

A spokesman from Worthing Borough Council reiterated the council will retain overall control of the ground, managing bookings from licensees, which will be likely to include schools, plus other sports clubs.

The recommendations in full:

- The committee affirms its support for the principle of school sports use on the Manor Sports Ground.

- The committee affirms its desire to be a reliable partner to the education sector in the borough

- The committee is sympathetic to the concerns of Bohunt School and requests that officers consider the scope for zoning part of the ground for dog walkers - away from the formal sports areas, reviewing existing by-laws and considering further enforcement for dogs on leads.

- Set up a new licence agreement, to enable the new academy to use the ground, with existing users, with the precise terms to be agreed in consultation with - the leader and cabinet member for environment