LETTER: Concerns over bid for new ground

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I have read with interest your recent reports on Horsham Football Club’s plans to build a new football stadium, artificial pitches and associated infrastructure smack in the middle of one of the most protected parts of the Horsham/Southwater Strategic Gap.

Many of your readers will be aware this not the first time HFC have tried to build a new football complex in the same area. On all previous occasions their planning applications have either been refused or they have been withdrawn.

In that context, I think a letter published in your newspaper in October 2002 is still very topical and it is resubmitted here for publication again.

It was written by Bernard Newman, an ex-director of Horsham Football Club and someone who was very devoted to the Denne Park area.

Many of the issues he raised are as relevant today as they were then. In particular, Mr Newman highlighted the unrealistic aspirations of Horsham Football Club, the perplexing refusal of the club to consider viable alternative sites, and the serious traffic and road safety issues associated with the ‘Hop Oast’ location.

These road safety issues are even more relevant now, with a recent pedestrian fatality nearby and frequent accidents on the Worthing Road.

PAUL CARRUTHERS

Denne Park, Worthing Road, Horsham

Mr Newman’s letter, headlined ‘Death-trap Worthing Road is biggest worry’, read:

When I first came to Horsham in 1948 I was able to enjoy a local game played by local lads who were proud to be picked to play for their town team, in much the same way that we all tried to represent our school or workmates.

Since then players have been mainly drawn from mother clubs in Sussex and Surrey, with a few Horsham players coming and going from time to time. Loyalty to the club has diminished, along with attendances.

In the late 1970s I was asked to join the Directors and assist in reducing their debts and overdraft. I only watched one game because my business required my attention and at that time I joined about 20 others who attended the match. At round about 75 pence per head the entrance fee didn’t cover the interest on the overdraft which was creeping up toward £30,000.

A few hard working individuals struggled to cut the grass and keep the pitch in some condition for games and the bar lost money every week.

I and two of my maintenance men on two occasions repaired leaks in the roof and helped to clean up the club room.

During this period my friend Frank King loyally supported the club and both he and I were criticised by some of our associates. Frank has kept theclub going almost solely and deserves much praise and thanks for doing so.

I left after about three years to concentrate on my business and have to say that I did so knowing that they would at some time fall back into debt, and time has proved this to be the tune of over £50,000. Attendances never kept the borrowing down and car boot sales at the weekends helped until they were stopped.

A wonderful opportunity was offered by Horsham District Council to go to Broadbridge Heath at a peppercorn rent but was rejected and never followed up by the committee. We had a developer interested at that time and discussed the figure to sell them the land in the region of £1,000,000 but again this was ignored.

In a recent edition of the West Sussex County Times Mr Hammond’s comparison with Manchester United and Arsenal is laughable, and by doing so helps to explain the main reason why local football is not well attended. People can now sit in the comfort of their own homes and watch top class games at the cost of a television licence, and see every move.

If the council desperately needs building sites to conform to the Government requirements they might re-consider a move to Broadbridge Heath Sports Centre, which need not affect Broadbridge Heath’s own football activities.

The site immediately before Tesco’s service vehicle entrance would be ideal, it is a level area with a new footbridge over the dual carriageway from the Tanbridge School direction, which pedestrian supporters from Horsham could use and where cars could enter for parking. No nearby houses would be disturbed by lighting, music or noise and it would be complimentary to the existing Sports Centre and a financial arrangement might be made with Tanbridge School to hire their artificial turf practice pitch.

My main objection to the use of the Denne Park site is based on the fact that Worthing Road is already a death trap without further development. Three people have been killed in separate accidents in the past five years, within 150 yards of each other just before the proposed turning to the site for the football club’s application, that being currently used by the Golf and Fitness Centre. It is among the most, if not the most dangerous section of road in Horsham with a blind bend near the entrance to Denne Park, and three other deaths have occurred at the junction near the Boar’s Head Public House.

In addition we now have traffic lights, a pedestrian crossing, the council rubbish tip, park and ride, the council vehicle depot and the entrance and exit to the Shell garage, all emerging at the same point. Two further internal roundabouts have been created, one immediately after a left hand bend from the petrol station and another about 100 yards further on at the internal entrance to the council tip itself.

On Sunday morning I crossed over into the top and found vehicles queuing from the main road entrance by the traffic lights and it took just under 20 minutes to drive in and out without using the tip. Vehicles were double parking in the entrance road and tip users were walking up and carrying their rubbish to dispose of it and then reversing to leave. At times even before the new traffic lights are put into use cars are queuing from the roundabout to the tip site and even nose to tail past the entrance to Denne Park itself.

The police will have to attend to control the traffic at peak times and obviously they are already overstretched. Further development here, particularly of the type envisaged doesn’t bear thinking about. The council must surely stop and consider all of these aspects, before a catastrophe occurs.

B.J. NEWMAN

Denne Park, Worthing Road, Horsham

Editor’s note: Bernard J. Newman was a prominent businessman and figure in the Horsham community. He was also for a period a director at Horsham Football Club. This letter from Mr Newman, who has now passed away, first appeared in the County Times of Friday, October 4, 2002.