Relief as town's sports clubs regain access to playing field
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Halesworth sports clubs are embracing a "new start" after a dispute which saw them locked out of their ground was resolved.
Clubs such as Halesworth Town FC and its junior side, Halesworth Bowls Club and Halesworth Tennis Club all use the Dairy Hill Sports Complex, near the town's railway station.
However, members were shocked to discover they had been locked out of the ground at the end of March - when coronavirus restrictions were eased to allow outdoor sport.
Halesworth Community Sport and Leisure (HCSL), the charity that owns the land, previously said the site was closed due to the findings of a safety inspection.
David Thomas, former chairman of HCSL, told a Halesworth Town Council meeting last month that the charity had been advised to keep the ground closed by insurers.
He said in a statement: "Given the fire safety inspection failures and after consultation with insurers, the pavilion was closed.
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"Due to the problems that were beyond trustees' control, the work that is required has been delayed."
In response to the closure, an online petition calling for the reopening of the complex was launched and attracted more than 1,500 signatures.
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However, the committee of HCSL has since stood down and been replaced by five town councillors and representatives of the clubs who use the field.
All clubs resumed using the ground earlier this month.
Will Kerslake, chairman of Halesworth Town FC, said he was relieved to once again be using the complex - but said it had impacted on the clubs' preparations.
He said: "It's lovely to be back in. We lost the senior cup recently, but we didn't have any planning.
"We can now start looking forward and planning for next season. We didn't know what was going to be happening so it's good to have some confidence.
"Hopefully now things will be good."
Simon Thackray, of Halesworth Tennis Club, added: "It's very much a handover period at the moment. It's really positive to have these trustees.
"I'm absolutely delighted - it couldn't have gone better. It's a new start.
"You noticed a new atmosphere prevailing the day after the new committee was appointed.
"The overriding feeling is of relief. It was incredibly time-consuming and people have been put through the mill."